Posted in childhood, comedy, Uncategorized

Hitler the Goldfish

It’s 1999 and the fair is in town. Us Passeri kids can barely contain our excitement. Hot dogs, rides, and personalised hair bands. We’ve got weird names you couldn’t buy an Ilaria hair band in the shops then.

This day ends well. We won a Goldfish and named him Hitler. He had a little dark mark above his lip, hence the imaginative name. We won him on one of those stalls where you win a prize every time. My Mum wasn’t silly, she knew us kids well. We had/have no coordination and we’re deeply sensitive. Anything that required even limited skill was out of the question. 

My Mum guided us over to a stall ran by a bloke who had aged horrifically due to a lifetime of cigarettes and regret. He had a tattooed face, too many piercings to count and an odour that could strip wall paper. 

He handed my brother three darts and said in a gruff voice ‘Throw them at the dart board lad.’ 

‘’You might want to stand well out the way” my Mum said to the fair man in her Scottish accent. It was more of a warning than anything else. She knew what would happen. It’s partly the reason I have crooked teeth, but that’s for another story.

‘It’ll be all right’ he said, naively.

My brother threw the first dart. 

The bloke running the stall lost the last remaining drop of colour in his already grey face. 

The first dart went straight through a teddy bear’s face, the second dart pierced through the man’s discoloured canvas shoes and the third, well, the third one was ripped out of Adriano’s hands and replaced with a goldfish in a bag and the direct instructions to leave and never return. 

After that ordeal we ran over to the Waltzers. My sister and I loved this ride the most. 

My Mum used to say to us that the way the fair worked was that you walked around and looked at the rides and could only go on one thing. She saved a fortune. This particular year we all decided on the Waltzers. My sister and I thought we were extra tough and said the lad working the ride could ‘spin us around as much as he can, we’re well hard’. He really turned that comment into a challenge. Biggest mistake of our lives. About 20 seconds in and we were crying and begging him to stop the ride. I remember at one point shouting ‘Please, I’ll give you my Christmas presents’. It didn’t work…he obviously wasn’t a fan of glitter pens and fluffy slippers. 

My bargaining abilities improved a few years later when I grew boobs. 

We staggered off the ride soaked in tears, nauseous and shouting about taking the man to court. ‘You’re a horrible man’ we said loudly. My mum was in hysterics and had no sympathy for us. She just said ‘Right kids, you’ve spent your pound. Let’s take Hitler home’ . Which must be the weirdest phrase ever.

Adriano spent the whole bus journey swinging the fish around, so poor little Hitler was bouncing off the sides of his plastic bag. He must have been terrified about coming to live with the Passeris 

So that’s how we got Hitler the goldfish. 

He survived a long time considering his background. If you read my blog post Dead Pets, then you’ll know that the Passeris shouldn’t have pets and can probably work out what happened. He died. We woke up and found him in his bowl not having fun. We got over it very quickly not to sound cruel but he was a sodding goldfish. A psychopath’s pet, that’s a fact by the way. I read it in the Metro on the bus so it must be true. 

Years later we were all having a family dinner and my little sister said “It’s a shame Hitler died”

My brother chipped in and said very earnestly “Well he wasn’t a very nice person.”

Bit of an understatement.

I then went on to say that “I don’t care how much he was bullied, how little pocket money he recieved or how crap his hair was, nothing is a good enough excuse to be that much of a twat.” –

My sister interrupted a little too late and said she meant the goldfish.  

Explaining this to the people we had over for dinner took longer than anticipated. 

Posted in childhood, comedy, social commentary

Brownie Camp

‘Mummy, what happens in there?’ I said, pointing out the window whilst wearing my nightie.

I was six years and 10 months old and very nosey about what happened in the little hut over the road. Little girls wearing yellow and brown would gather there every week for big girl stuff. Secret stuff. 

My mum said –

‘They’re Brownies, when you’re seven you can go’.

 I watched them every week desperate to join in. One week my little brother beat me to the window and instead of just watching the Brownies gathering outside, he stood on the windowsill, pulled down his trousers and had his willy out. It was the ‘willy on cold things stage’. I ran into the kitchen in a big huff and said to my Mummy –

‘Well that’s it Mummy, I can never be a Brownie. They know we’re a strange family already!’ 

He was only five at the time so it was all very innocent.

Not your average problem. 

Two months went by, I was finally seven, and  the whole thing had been forgotten about. I was officially a Brownie. Turns out the things going on in the secret hut were not that exciting. I didn’t get many badges and within a couple of years they all hated me when I announced I was going to a drama club in town.

Soon after joining there was a Brownie camp, we were all off to sleep in tents and eat beans. I’d seen this in the films. 

The first night of Brownie camp didn’t get off to a great start. I wasn’t allowed to attended the camp fire night with songs and marshmallows because I wasn’t eight. I was old enough to wash up everyone’s dinner plates and watch them having a lovely time out the window though. 

A girl that I hated was stuffing her annoying little face with marshmallows. I scrubbed the plates harder. I hated her because she had a pony, a desk tidy and she pronounced spaghetti bolognese as ‘esketti bologs’. I’m sure she’s grown up to be great but she was very irritating. She would try and make friends by having lots of fancy mini rubbers. Mini rubbers that totally won everyone over. She’d have every single glittery gel pen and a biro that had a feather on the end. A total pain in the arse.

To ease us into camping, the first night was indoors on bunk beds. I was one of the youngest so I had to go on the top bunk. The bunk beds were metal and hadn’t seen an Allen key in decades. They were squeaky and I’m a wriggler. One of the older Brownies sighed repeatedly until Brown Owl , the Brownie Leader , asked her what was wrong. She was a posh kid, named something like Portia, spelt properly. Portia sighed again and said – ‘Oh Brown Owl, there is just so much squeaking coming from Ilaria’s bed’

 Brown Owl quickly said ‘Ilaria, no more moving. Just stare at the ceiling and let Portia sleep’ 

I was fuming. 

No marshmallows, having to do the washing up and now this! Sod you Portia. From now on you will be Porsche. For the purpose of this blog your poshness is revoked.

Night two was when the camping went up a notch. We were staying in tents. My mum was worried they wouldn’t feed me because every time I came home from a sleep over at a friends house I’d say – 

‘Mummy I’m starving! Their mum made us share a tin of soup. Share!’ 

So she packed me lots of snacks that I immediately ate as soon as the tents went up. Within the first hours the tent was filled with ants because of my crumbs getting every where. I was made to share a tent with a little girl who had the snottiest nose I have ever witnessed. I was now officially a proper Brownie. I had regrets about joining. 

This doesn’t happen in all the books. It’s songs, sausages and nature. Not washing up, ants and snotty noses.

When you’re a fully fledged Brownie you get to go to big national Brownie event. There’s Cubs, Beavers, other Brownies and the one after Girl Guides and Scouts for when you’re a proper grown up. By that point I just think they should get a shag and stop trying to get badges for knot tying.

On reflection grown up Ilaria has learnt many things from Brownie camp. One major thing being, a badge for sewing doesn’t define you. Yellow and brown is a terrible combination and always carry an Allen key. You know, for just in case.