Posted in childhood, comedy, Uncategorized

The Kids With Matches

It was a cold and rainy day. I held onto my little sister’s hand. We were both in a bad mood, and my brother was annoyed he’d not been able to watch the end of The Bill. He had a thing about watching the end credits of tv programmes. The Bill was his favourite, he liked the legs in tights walking along the concrete. We all have our quirks. 

We were waiting for our errant father to arrive. The Italian was always late. Lateness wasn’t his worst quality though. He was only allowed to see us once a week and the courts said it had to be in a public place. He was- and there’s no other way of putting this- dodgy.  My Mum softened us up for our weekly ordeal by taking us for a coke float at a cafe in town. We really didn’t want to see him. He made us feel nervous. I watched the ice cream make the Coca Cola cloudy knowing that once this delicious treat was over it was time to see the Italian, so I made sure I took forever to drink it. My mum is a woman of the world and she couldn’t be fooled. ‘I know what you’re doing you wee monster.’ There was no escape.

He was even later than usual. I looked up at my curly haired Mummy, clad head to toe in tie dye and said  ‘He’s not coming, let’s just get the bus home.’ My brother and sister nodded excitedly. They didn’t like him either.

‘Sorry kids, you have to wait’ she said. Shattering my plan.

All of a sudden a dark shadow appeared and my heart sank. 

Here he was. 

Not Daddy, not Papa.

The Italian.

He looked hungover and pissed off. He was holding a gift bag. My brother and sisters faces lit up when they saw the bag. ‘Presents!’ They said with their eyes. 

I had a feeling my gift wouldn’t be something to get excited over. I’d recently started to see through him. One day I looked at him and it all become clear. The man was an arse and I made sure he knew. The older I got the more I realised what a bad egg he was, the worst egg. Imagine that egg being a bit of a psychopath. The more my dislike for him became apparent the crapper my gifts were and the nicer my siblings gifts were.

This week he handed me a very creepy clown doll, so scary looking that even our friend’s boxer dog wouldn’t go near it. He gave my sister a beautiful fluffy teddy bear and my brother a hand painted train set. I wasn’t really that bothered but to be honest a decent gift would’ve slightly softened having to see him. Especially because me and my siblings had seen him take the money out of my mum’s purse the week before. She’d nipped of for a wee and he very smoothly slipped a £20 note out of her purse and then  put his finger to his lips saying ‘shhhh, our secret’. He could’ve at least spend it on something good.

Us three kids gave my Mum a cuddle and waved goodbye to her as we followed the Italian into Rascals. Rascals was an indoor play centre. We were feral kids but the brilliant thing about Rascals was that we were never the naughtiest. 

We got to the front desk and a bored looking girl with an orange face said ‘Three quid each.’ The Italian tried to charm her to get in for free. He attempted this every time. It never worked. He had plenty of money, stood there in his designer shirt and leather slip on shoes. You know the type, with the little chain on the front. I apologised to the girl and rolled my eyes, I thought I was so grown up. My little sister put her hands on her hips and said ‘That’s it, I’m getting mummy!’ 

The three of us marched outside, my teeny sister leading the way. My mum was still there, holding her purse. She knew this was going to happen. She handed us a £10 note and some extra pound coins for orange squash. This day was getting expensive for my mum. Bus tickets, coke floats, Rascals entry. His kids were not even worth £9 in his eyes. We said bye to our Mum again and went back inside. The Italian had left the counter and was already sat inside on a white plastic chair. He was chatting to a young woman who was breast feeding her baby, handing her a pen and a napkin to get her phone number. We’d only been gone a couple of minutes and he was already pulling. Fast work indeed. He spotted us and loudly said ‘My children, I missed you!’ He made sure to look at his new girlfriend as he said it. She fluttered her eyelashes at him and gave us a smile. I look back now and find it typical that out of all the women in there he chose to speak to the one with her tits out.

My sister, brother and I dived into the ball pool. We thought we were VIP’s with our Rascals wristbands. We climbed up a ladder and crawled through a glow-in-the-dark tunnel. The tunnel made everything sound you were under water and it smelt of warm socks. Normally it was empty and was our secret hiding place. Not today though, today the tunnel had visitors. 

We could see four shaved heads and tracksuits. At first we thought they were grown ups but once we got closer we saw that they were about our age. We were very intrigued by them. They were not like the children in the village we lived in. They were town kids, which was a different breed altogether. I bet they got the bus on their own and had televisions in their bedrooms. I wanted to know more about them but was too nervous. 

My brother and sister pushed past me and crawled towards them. My siblings asked if they had tried the Rascals orange squash. That’s probably the equivalent of adults talking about the weather. I’d been warned about the naughty kids at Rascals, I thought this might be them. I had a feeling they were bad news. I crawled further into the tunnel to join my brother and sister. 

One of the shaved head kids introduced himself as ‘Bad Baz’ and pulled out a box of matches. My siblings and I gasped. In genuine  shock I said ‘You’re too little for those and you’re not allowed things like that in Rascals. There’s rules.’ 

A great way to make friends, remind them of ‘The Rules’. 

Bad Baz replied with ‘Yeah? So what? We do what we want’. The other matchstick kids nodded in agreement with Bad Baz. Baz was definitely the leader, he did most the talking whilst the other three  nodded. I thought carefully and in my most annoying voice said ‘Yeah well, I’ll tell the people who work here.’ My little sister, four years younger but much more street wise elbowed me in my tin ribs and whispered ‘Shut up, they have matches’. 

She was right, they had to be in charge. I backtracked and said ‘Only joking, I love matches’.

The smallest member of the matchstick kids asked us if we’d ever set fire to anything. My brother told him that it was on his list of things that he wanted to do but at the moment he was more into chopping worms in half. All of the matchstick members laughed loudly and said we could be in their gang. My little sister agreed immediately. She loved danger.

Did this make us cool? We were part of a gang, a gang not to be messed with. It had all happened so fast and I was torn. Do I go along with this or do I tell Linda, the lovely lady that makes the drinks? Linda always felt sorry for us having to spend our Saturdays with the Italian. She fancied him at first but then realised he was more like the baddies in the Godfather films than an Italian stallion. He’d always kick off that they didn’t serve good quality espresso and that the food was rubbish. He’d wave his hands around shouting in his thick Italian accent ‘The food a in England is a disgusting!’ Us kids would bury our heads in our hands, apologise to Linda with our eyes and then run and hide in the tunnel.  

I think he saw the indoor play centre as a place to pull women and shout at people. Linda gave us extra chicken nuggets so in our eyes was God. It annoyed us when the Italian was rude to her. Surely extra nuggets meant I had to tell Linda about the naughty boys? 

Before I could give it any more thought the matchstick kids handed my brother, sister and me a match each and taught us a very simple secret hand shake. We slipped the matches into the front pockets of our dungarees. It was official. We were in the gang. I couldn’t wait to tell the kids in the village about this. ‘What now then?’ I said with big eyes, looking at my fellow gang members. Bad Baz said ‘Erm, we just sit here and that’. 

Being in a gang was slightly underwhelming.

All of a sudden there was shouting and banging.  Every gang member’s eyebrows lifted. I crawled back to the tunnel opening and peered through the coloured ropes to see Linda frantically looking through a drawer. I shouted her name, and she beckoned me over. I mouthed ‘we need to go’ to my siblings. We did the secret handshake with the gang and said we’d be back. Then we climbed down the ladder and ran over to Linda. She said that The Italian was locked in the toilet and that she couldn’t find the key. She was trying not to laugh. This was golden. The four of us giggled, all huddled together. 

We could hear The Italian, kicking the door and swearing loudly. He was huffing and puffing, shouting over and over again that ‘The lock is stupid because it is a English’.

Mums held their children closer and sipped their coffees. The wanted to know what would happen.

As funny as this was we had a reputation to uphold, we were part of a gang now. We even had matches. Something like this could effect our newly found street cred. I was sure Bad Baz’s dad had never been stuck in the lavatory, and if he had been then he’d have fought his way out.

I glanced back at our beloved tunnel and saw the gang staring. They looked like a skinhead totem pole. My little sister said ‘Ilaria, let them know to stay there’ I put on a big smile and gave the gang a thumbs up. We’ll meet you in the tunnel next week!’ I shouted. They smiled, waved their matches and went back into the tunnel. Phew, we were still cool. 

Looking back, they were odd kids. 

Linda sent the orange faced girl on the front desk over the road to the mechanics to see if any of the men would come over and sort the toilet door. Linda sat us down and gave us extra strong orange squashes and a Jammy Dodger biscuit each. Everyone was staring and whispering but we didn’t care. This was brilliant. 

Through mouthfuls of Jammy Dodgers, my brother said he’d be up for seeing the gang again. My sister and I agreed. This was great orange squash, we had a gang, and The Italian was making a tit of himself.

Eventually two grubby, smiley mechanics sorted out the lock and released the raging Italian from his toilet hell. They tried to make a joke but The Italian was having none of it and kept shouting how this wouldn’t have happened in Italy. We slurped the last bit of our orange squash and watched him. What was he going to do next we wondered? 

He hungrily put a cigarette to his lips and looked in his pockets for a lighter. He couldn’t find one in his expensive trousers, or one in his designer jacket. Linda shook her head, she didn’t have one either. He looked at the mechanics ‘Sorry fella, you didn’t laugh at our joke. See ya pal’. And they went back to the garage. 

He needed a cigarette desperately after being locked in the toilets and being with his kids for more than five minutes. He was waving his hands around in a way only an angry Italian in need of nicotine can. ‘I need a match’ he said, ‘just one match’. 

We looked up at him sweetly and shrugged our shoulders. What did he expect? We were children, and children aren’t allowed to play with matches. 

As he stormed off to go round the tables in search of a light, I winked at my brother and sister, then tapped the front pocket of my dungarees. We did the handshake. No one messes with the Matchstick gang.

AE19A6087 (c) Andy Hollingworth Archive

Photo Credit: (c) Andy Hollingworth Archive

Posted in comedy, Uncategorized

The Burnley ‘Guest House’

When someone holds a hot glue gun to your crotch and makes an unsavoury joke it usually doesn’t end well. The average person may think ‘how did this happen?’ Not to worry though, it’s just my Mum in the kitchen and we’re making fairy costumes. 

We had been booked for the Burnley Literature festival. We were going to be telling stories to local families. The brief asked for ‘woodland fairies.’ My mum’s immediate response was ‘Do they know I’m short, fat and nearly 60?’ I was surprised she’d said her real age. She went from 46 to 48 and forgot about 47 one birthday. Ever since her late 50’s she’d been trying to reclaim 47. I attempted to explain to her that wasn’t how it worked but she’s Glaswegian and often holding a glue gun. Some things are best left alone.

We got on the train dressed as fairies, our outfits complete with flowers laced through our Doc Martens. The venue was a giant inflatable toadstool, the more we stared at it the more phallic it became. It only stayed inflated for the amount of time it took for 2 kids to get in through the narrow zip up door, which meant as the other people were squeezing in it actually deflated on the kids. Screaming happened. People got annoyed but we’re fairies, who could be angry at fairies? Turns out all of Burnley can. 

We’d had a brilliant day full of laughs but we were shattered. Good job I’d booked a lovely little guest house for my mum and I to stay in. I thought I’d treat her so we could have some proper time together.

The guest house was only a few minutes walk away so off we set on the short journey, still dressed like fairies. We got a few odd looks but we didn’t really care. All we wanted was a lie down and a cup of tea.

We arrived at the Guest house and I got a strange feeling in my tummy. It didn’t look as cute as it did online. Had I made a mistake?

It was 5.30pm when we knocked on the door. An emaciated woman with a strong North East accent answered the door. She asked us how long we wanted a room for. ‘One hour? 2 hours?’ I was a bit confused and looked at my mum. ‘The whole night please’ her eyes widened. ‘We’ve booked a room, the name’s Ilaria’ ‘ahh okay girls. Someone has just left your room’.

She gestured for us to come in. She made us a coffee that worrying tasted of salt and asked us to wait on the stairs. ‘I’ll go up and clean your room now. I’ll just be a minute’ she said. ‘TAKE YOUR TIME’ my mum quickly shouted. 

A young girl with what sounded like she had pleurisy told us how she was in charge of making sure the pillow cases are clean. Lovely. She asked how we knew each other. When I told her we were mother and daughter she said ‘You could make a fortune tonight.’ I was confused and then the penny dropped. My mum clocked my expression and said ‘bloody hell love, have you only just worked it out?’ 

You could book rooms by the hour. Surely this wasn’t a knocking shop. No place for someone dressed as a fairy and her mother. What had I done?

We were put in a room that felt like the inside of an ashtray. We sipped on our salty coffees as parts of our soul shrivelled up and died. Sod this we thought. Let’s go out for dinner. We walked around the streets nearby in the pouring rain, still in our fairy outfits. With rumbling tummies all we could see were 1 star hygiene rated places. We spotted a man so far past the point of drunk he was trying to cook a frozen pizza with a lighter. The odd thing was that it wasn’t actually the first time I’d seen that particular culinary technique. Living in the north is very colourful.

The strange thing about Burnley was that everywhere closes at 6 o’clock. It suddenly turns into a ghost town and the only things available to eat are from the newsagent. The good thing about being a grown up is if you want crisps for tea then no one will stop you. I’d rather it was a choice though. We went into a newsagent and picked up a big bag of Poland’s answer to Wotsits. As a kid a giant bag of crisps would be my absolute dream and would be up there in things to make me ecstatically happy. Right now, stood there with wet hair and fairy wings I thought what a fool I was. Sometimes the things we want are not the things we need. What I need is to not be spending the night in a knocking shop with my mum and a bag of cheese balls. 

We headed back to the guest house. We heard terrible things, we smelt scary things. We walked up creaky steep stairs to our ashtray room. Nothing works from the door handle to the window. A pair of knickers hung from the radiator and a very worn pair of slippers with the words ‘sexy mofo’ embroidered on the front sat at the end of one the beds. These items did not belong to me so they made me feel very uneasy being in the room so casually. This is something I hate. When I stay somewhere or move into a new house I don’t want there to be any trace of the previous occupant. I moved into a flat years ago and found a miniature sand timer and nail scissors in the kitchen drawer. I knew instantly that the previous occupant liked to cut their toenails in a set time frame whilst cooking. I shouldn’t know that. 

Back in the knocking shop there was a canvas on the wall with ‘dance like no one’s watching’ printed on the front with a cat holding a balloon. That cat knows sod all but still somehow seemed to be laughing at us ‘you thought you’d stay in a cosy quaint guest house with your mum? Haha, enjoy your Polish cheese balls, bitch.’ Every where we walked to in the room I could see the cat’s eyes looking back at me. Like one of those spooky Victorian paintings where the eyes follow you. Smug twat. 

Even the bathroom told a story. It smelt of stale cigarette smoke and old spice. It surprised me to see this was an air freshener so the scent was a deliberate choice. 

We got into our pyjamas and decided that the best thing was to put the lights out. The smell would still be there but at least our eyes would be spared. I wriggled around to get comfy but my mattress was covered in plastic. For easier wiping perhaps? I was relieved at the wipe-ability but It sounded like I was sleeping on a giant crisp packet.

I stopped wriggling. Ahh, silence. 

And then the builders started drilling downstairs.

We both laughed loudly.

‘You’ll have to put this in your book of stories ma wee toots’ my mum said.

We giggled ourselves to sleep.

Thank goodness I have my book of stories. Without it I probably would’ve cried. If I’d have stayed there with anyone other than my mum it wouldn’t have made me laugh. Without her I’d never go with the flow. She makes me chase the stories. 

Thank you Mummy.

Posted in comedy

The Clown

It’s the day we’d been waiting for. It was the village Christmas party. 

Us Passeri kids are dressed up in Christmassy outfits. My little sister is wearing a velvet Burgundy dress with puffy sleeves, she has a ribbon in her hair and she’s wearing patent boots the same colour as her dress. My Mummy strokes her hair and says in her Glaswegian accent “You look so cute ma wee toots.” My sisters face turns from sweet to evil and she looks us all in the eyes and says “These boots are good for kicking people.”

She has aways scared the shit out of me.

She’s a vet nurse now and is very good at it but I’m sure the animals get better out of pure fear.

There’s jelly and ice cream. There’s kids crying. There’s pissed off dads. All the makings of a typical village party.

The village hall smells musty, like an old coat whose home has been a lonely damp shed for 3 too many years. Lengths of sad tinsel are strung up on nails that were already there. There’s a piano in the corner with a sign on it saying “I’m here to be played but only if you know how”. At every village event a psychotic almost teenage boy would sit on the ancient stool and tap away at the black and white keys. Resident busy body Dolly would always shout “Oi! can’t you read? Look at the sign.” The psychotic almost teen would come back with “I’m playing a lovely tune.” This would be too much for busy body Dolly and she’d bang her walking stick on the floor and shout “I’ll play a nice tune on your backside!” Every village fundraiser, coffee morning, party. Without fail.

For this particular party some of the Mums from the posh end of the village had clubbed together and paid for a clown from the nearest town to come and entertain the kids. A very mediocre clown. Not the local creepy, pervy clown my Mummy said to avoid eye contact with and not Oodly Doodly, who was the creme de la creme of the children’s party clowns.

This poor bloke was somewhere in the middle. His outfit was okay, the make up was fine, the jokes were forgetful and vanilla, kids half giggled and parents talked amongst themselves. This annoyed The Clown. I would personally rather be hated than just “Ilaria? Oh, yeah, she’s okay.”

As an adult I wonder if The Clown (I’m sure he had a name) always wanted to do this? Or if his parents were proud? Perhaps they thought this clown stuff was just a phase?

The Clown is gesturing towards a pile of brightly coloured balloons. A little boy with fat red cheeks excitedly shouts “I want Batman in the Bat Mobile!” The Clown replies “How about a sword?” The boy looks at The Clown’s scuffed shoes and mumbles “Fine.” 

His show is so unoriginal and lacking dynamism that when the village’s snottiest kid starts picking her nose, the other children watch. The Clown must want to die inside. I remember being in the school nativity, I was the narrator and wore the worlds ugliest hair band. As I was delivering my lines about the wise men following the star to Bethlehem, I heard two women on the front row talking about the cauliflower cheese they were going to have that evening. Were they rude? Yes. Was I that boring? Also yes. I blame the material to be honest. But this poor clown can’t do that as easily, it’s his material.

To give credit to The Clown, he’s giving it his all. Despite the unglamorous setting. He’s telling his jokes and performing cartwheels as if the room is a jam packed beautiful theatre. As an adult my heart goes out to him but little Ilaria was bored shitless. He was desperate for the approval of the grown ups but they were not arsed about him, they were just tucking into the left over sausage rolls. 

This clown wasn’t a patch on our favourite clown. His name was Oodly Doodly. The greatest clown ever.

We were out in a shopping centre and we saw him performing outside an over priced stationary shop. A giggling crowd had gathered around him. Even the parents were engaged. His jokes were silly and rude in a way only grown ups understood. The children looked at him all sparkly eyed as he made sausage dog balloon models, threw sweets into the crowd and performed carefully rehearsed magic tricks. He was wonderful. I tugged on my my Mum’s arm and dragged my brother and sister over. We weaved our way to the front and sat cross legged and looked lovingly at Oodly Doodly. Our clown.

We spoke about him non stop on the bus home. My Mum had sneaked one of his cards into her pocket and booked him for my little sister’s 3rd birthday. Every kid on the street came round to our house, even Nathan on the end, the one we didn’t like. Kids from the posh end and the ‘other’ end were there. Kids and parents were sat on every step of the staircase and the carpet was covered with children. Laughter filled the house. 

Oodly Doodly had been on top form. When my Mum made him a coffee I remember running into the kitchen to make sure she used the mug with the pink teddy on. That was my mug. I very carefully handed Oodly Doodly the mug and told him at great length how I didn’t let just anybody use the pink teddy mug. He pretended to care and asked for his cheque. 

Oodly Doodly, in my house! What a treat. This needs to happen again. It’ll be my brothers birthday soon and the perfect occasion to have our clown back.

My Mum held the phone to her ear and dialled Oodly Doodly’s number. She was holding onto the card, it’s edges all curly. 

My younger sister, brother and I were sat cross legged at my Mum’s feet. Waiting in excited anticipation. She was phoning Oodly Doodly! She was about to speak to Oodly Doodly!

She smiled at us, winked and said in her Glaswegian accent “Hello, I’d like to book Oodly Doodly again for my sons 6th birthday. On the 12th June.”

Pause.

“He can’t? Oh thats okay, the following weekend?”

Another agonising pause. 

“Okay, erm when is he free?” She said. She knew how excited we’d be, the date almost didn’t matter.

My Mum’s face dropped and she loudly said.

“HE’S DEAD!?!”

My sister, brother and I glanced at each other, looked at my Mum then back to one another. There was 3 second pause and then we all burst into tears. 

Oodly Doodly is dead. 

This was heartbreaking and something I wasn’t ready to deal with. Little did I know but this prepared us for multiple dead pets in the coming years. 

Back to the crap clown in front of us. He’s dead behind the eyes and the kids are getting restless. He shouts in his own voice that he needs a coffee and a cigarette. 

A big titted mum from the posh end of the village starts a game of pass the parcel. Laughter and chatter fills the room. This annoys The Clown even more, he’s now puffing angrily on his cigarette. Not appreciated in my own time, he says quietly. To himself.

The Clown comes back into the village hall. He waves a big hello to everyone and asks if anyone missed him. It’s silent but he has a smile on his face. 

The village hall door slams loudly and everyone looks over to the doorway. We see the silhouette of a tallish man in a chunky coat. In my head I hear the Eastenders theme tune as I work out who it is. 

“Ciao, sono tornato” The Italian Del boy announces.

It was our errant father. The Italian.

He stepped into the light of the hallway and all the kids ran to their parents.

The Clown saw this as an opportunity to play a game that involves the parents. Christ knows why he thought that would be appropriate. 

The Italian helped himself to a plate of jelly and sat down on a teeny chair at the back of the hall.

The image of an Italian psychopath eating jelly on a children’s sized chair will always be funny and terrifying in equal measures.

We’d not seen him since he gave us a rabbit called Tom. He dropped of the scared looking rabbit that he’d Gaffer taped shut in a shoe box and then he disappeared. 

The Clown gathers the children and playfully shouts “Run over to the grown ups and bring me their shoes!” 

The kids quickly disperse throughout the room, giggling and grabbing at the grown ups shoes. 

A little girl in a pink tutu stupidly takes one of the Italians expensive leather slip ons. She runs towards The Clown and hands the warm shoe to him. The Clown carries on joking around and says “Wow, this is a smelly one! Yuck! Which stinky grown up is the owner of this shoe?”

The Italian slowly rises from the child sized chair. It took a while, the chair really was tiny. He stands, all 6ft something and says in a booming voice “MINE.”

The Clown’s make up seems to melt off his face out of sheer horror. The Italian walks towards him. Everyone is silent apart form a baby that starts crying. 

When The Italian gets to the front he is almost nose to nose with The Clown. I was genuinely embarrassed to share DNA with this man. A little girl next to me whispered “Ilaria, is that your daddy?”

I considered lying to her but there was no mistaking it. The curly hair, big brown eyes and massive nose. Sadly, the Italian was my Papa.

“Ermm, not really” I said.

The Clown wouldn’t give the shoe back and the kids were in fits of laughter. The Clown thought ‘FINALLY’ he revelled in the laughter getting braver and braver. The Italian puffed out his chest. The parents were glued to this…it was more intense than the Bakeoff finale. 

The Clown danced in front of The Italian, teasing him with the shoe. The Italian started to clench his fists and he made a strange sound, a sardonic noise escaped from behind his gritted teeth. 

The Clown looked at the crowd and said “Ooh look, the Italian man is getting angry.”

The kids laughed again.

The Clown asked the Italian for his name. The Italian told him in broken English and bits of Italian to “F**k off because he was a red nosed mother f**ker”. Italian is such a beautiful language. 

The Clown then did something very stupid. He mocked The Italians accent. This was a step too far. The children laughed again. The Italian went red, puffed out his chest once more and in what seemed to be almost slow motion, punched The Clown so hard he fell backwards into his suitcase of props. A rubber chicken squeaked and he squished a bottle of red face paint as he fell. The kids screamed thinking The Clown was dead.

Everyone was speechless and was left open mouthed in shock. 

Busy body Dolly assertively made her way over to The Clown and took the leather slip on out of his hand. She looked up at The Italian and said “You horrible sod, you’re not getting this shoe back until you start behaving yourself young man. Now sling your hook.”

The Italian, for once in his life did as he was told. He turned around and hobbled towards the door wearing one shoe. An image I’ll never forget. 

Everyone gave Dolly a round of applause. The Clown said thank you to the crowd. My brother piped up and said “The clapping wasn’t for you.”

My sister, brother and I looked at my Mum and asked if we’d get a present from the Italian. My Mum replied “Go and say thank you to Dolly. She’s given us the best Christmas present. She’s made sure the Italian won’t be back for a while.”

Andy Hollingworth Lady Ilaria pics final edit

Photo credit: (c) Andy Hollingsworth Archive

Posted in comedy, Uncategorized

I’m doing a show!

Hello you bloody lovely people!

I have some news…I’m doing my first ever Lady Ilaria storytelling show and I’m very excited. I got some fancy photos done and I’ve sorted a venue. Please come!

The show will be at the very cool Spark in York. It’s the perfect place to have a hair cut, look at some art and have a burger. It’s all independent retailers and it’s brilliant.

Here’s the blurb for the show…

Lady Ilaria’s Drawers

…tales of a confused life

Lady Ilaria is definitely more ‘Downtown’ than Downton.
She was born with a plastic spoon in her mouth.
There was a posh end of the village and a dodgy end…she grew up firmly in the middle. Her foot in both camps.
Skint but ate hummus.

These days she is a ‘Lady’ in search of her destiny but dead pets, the Mega bus and a Goldfish named Hitler keep getting in the way. 

A storytelling show for grown ups. 

Get comfy,

it’s story time.

Written and performed by Ilaria Passeri.

Pop over the the Bohemian bar in Spark and order their ‘Lady Ilaria’ cocktail.

Tickets can be bought here

This is Spark York’s website

The show will be on Friday 18th October at 7.30

Here’s a photo of me and my drawers taken by the utterly brilliant Andy Hollingworth thumbnail

 

 

 

 

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.

Posted in comedy, social commentary

Hipsters

 

Coffee served in anything other than a mug. A jam jar, a plant pot, a mason jar, an egg cup, a syringe. The hipsters are taking over.

Avocados. I Had avocados on toast in university in 2010 and nobody cared, Kim Kardashian (insert any other celeb with a low BMI and a big Instagram following) has it and everyone goes batshit crazy, bulk buys them and puts them on everything. I was the original trendsetter but I didn’t shout about it. Come to think of it, why did I bother eating if it wasn’t to document it to strangers and acquaintances. Because I’m greedy, that’s why.

I love a hipster cafe but not everything has to be served on a wooden board and ‘de – constructed’ it’s expensive so can you please ‘construct’ it.

Almond milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk, soya milk, oat milk. I can’t even slag these off. They are delicious but the concept annoys me, even though my fridge is full of them. It’s as though hipsters just like asking what milks do you have to make a point. A secret hipster quiz that only the hipsterist of places will pass. I was in a brunch place recently and was drawn to something described as a turquoise latte. I excitedly asked the waiter what it was. He rolled his eyes and said it was made from algae but when it’s mixed with a plant-based milk it kind of goes blue-ish. No thank you. I had a tea instead.

I ordered a matcha latte once with almond milk and quietly threw up in a corner. It was so pretty, bright green and had the most beautiful latte art on the foamy top but it tasted of pond water mixed with something dead. I like most foods but this was bloody awful. I’m convinced that no one actually likes them. Having said that, I did take a picture to put on my social media.

What happened to just a normal cup of tea? I say that like I don’t walk into a coffee shop asking for an oat milk cortado. Which I do. But I wouldn’t walk into a greasy spoon and ask for avocado on sourdough bread with a coconut flat white. Some places only sell sausages and Lucozade, which is also fine. Just don’t act like a twat when Sue with a tight ponytail, big earrings, and an apron says ‘You what?’ When you want a goji berry and spinach smoothie with spirulina. She’ll think it’s a yeast infection and recommend a thick cream from the pound shop. Sue is fictional but I know id like her.

Sometimes the best things in life are simple but there’s something lovely in turning the simple into a real event. Why not serve a cheese sandwich on a wooden board, or do yoga whilst playing with goats (this is a real thing.) I kind of like the idea of making the normal into something slightly elaborate. For example, if I ever buy a chocolate bar, I won’t scoff it on the train, I’ll wait until I get home, light some candles, make a cup of tea and put my pyjamas on. If I’m going to have those empty calories then I’m going to turn it into something special.

I’m not a hipster, I just like hipster things.

I’m not a hipster but things do sound better on vinyl.

I’m not a hipster but I do have a blog

I’m not a hipster, am I? okay, maybe I’m one matcha latte away from being a hipster and that’s totally fine because they are stomach-churningly disgusting.

First Published on – https://www.pfmagazine.online/

 

 

 

 

Posted in comedy

The Mega Bus to Hell

I woke up knowing it wouldn’t be a good day. Today I was getting the MEGA BUS. I have an issue with the name. Just call it the bus. There’s nothing Mega about. Unless the next part is Mega soul destroying.

I get on the bus, very apprehensive. After a short while my phone battery runs out, I now have no choice but to to try and avoid the man with gold teeth and a medallion nestled into his chest hair calling me ‘baby girl’. I’m not a girl, I’m a woman. You greasy, slimy creep. I don’t say this, I’m a people pleaser so I just smiled and said ‘Buses ey?”.

That’s another tip when trying to avoid conversation with nutters, act as if you have no personality. It works, trust me.

It all started when I accidentally wore double denim. This took me back to my teenage years. I once wore quadruple denim to a night club. A truly horrifying image. Especially when you add hair straightened to within an inch of its life and a blue WKD clutched between badly fake tanned hands. If that image isn’t scary enough the next one will finish you off…

Within an hour the toilets are already ‘OUT OF USE’. A young woman is desperate to go and the driver says we can’t stop until Birmingham. This is all too much for her and she goes to the back of the bus, squats and covers herself with a jacket. I cant believe I’m typing this…she is pooing into a paper cup.

She then just sat back in her seat and held onto the steaming cup. I looked around trying to make eye contact with someone who would exchange a glance of ‘what the hell?!” I keep looking, searching desperately. No one meets anybody’s eyes. I’ve never felt lonelier. Its moments like these I feel like it really is just me. Why does no one else think this is bonkers? There’s a lady, I use the term loosely, holding a steaming cup of her own shit. Not that it being someone else would make it better. Come to think of it, nothing would make this better. The only would be me being a bit more fancy and just getting the train, which I normally do but I was trying to be sensible so I had more money for cocktails. Cocktails that I definitely need after this ordeal. We’re not even in Birmingham yet and the smell of a strangers shit is burying itself into my nostrils.

There’s no air-con and a bonkers old man wearing a Friends t-shirt keeps pushing the coach windows shut because the draught is hurting his neck. I’ll give him a sore neck in a minute. The Friends t-shirt is a lie, he clearly has none, not with an attitude like that. I instantly regret smiling at him when I got on the coach. I’m pleased I didn’t offer him any of my grapes, that I ate before we even left Manchester. All I have to keep me entertained is a sorry looking apple. The apple’s sorry and I’m sorry. Why didn’t I just get the train? The Virgin speedy train, in London in just 2 hours. Air -con, clean seats and a functioning toilet. That train is a 5 star in the Maldives with an underpaid butler in comparison to this 1 star, shit-scented, Mega Bus to hell. I might sound spoilt and entitled but I don’t think fully grown adults should be shitting into cups, not in public anyway….and if they do, they should at the very least have the grace to look embarrassed.
To be fair to her, maybe she’s had a really bad week, or a bad vintage and just doesn’t care any more. I remember turning 30 during a shift at a Christmas grotto. Whilst dressed as an elf, I ate an entire Paw Patrol advent calendar. A low point. Maybe this is her low point. Something awful must have happened to her because that is a defeated woman!

I finally jumped off the bus in London – dazed, damaged, in need of a gin and to be held. I spent the weekend re-telling the story to friends and friends of friends. I’ve had to tell so many people that I’m convinced it’ll eventually get back to the cup girl.

A thought that makes my blood run cold is that in a couple of days I’ll be getting back on the Mega Bus to come home again. I mean, I could get the train but where are the anecdotes in that?!

Maybe we should all be pooing in cups, she looked strangely liberated. Or perhaps use it as a bench mark for a personal crisis, for example- work was depressing this week but at least I didn’t poo in a cup. A positive spin on a shitty situation.

Posted in comedy

The Village Shop

‘Kids! Get your wee bums down here.’

My mum shouted in her Glaswegian accent.

My little sister and I ran down stairs to be met with my mum holding a ten pound note. She waved it around and asked us to go across to the village shop for bread, milk and toilet roll. Boring things.

The highlight of the village I grew up in had to be the local shop. A Mecca for renting videos and buying penny sweets. I loved the village shop, it was great. All you had to do was ignore the rumours of the toenails in the quiche and it was a beautiful shopping experience. Something I’ve tried to erase from my mind was the time I was sent to the shop to buy mushrooms and the shop keeper woke up the sleeping cat who was using the mushrooms as a bed, shooed her away and blew the cat fur off them.

We’d often go in there with one penny each and take a ridiculous amount of time choosing between a strawberry shoelace, a cola bottle or a mini marshmallow. We were easily pleased. Back then we used to think ‘Our Mummy is so generous’ in retrospect I now realise what a genius move that was, and a stingy one at that.

The sweeties I always begged for were pink Bubbalicious bubble gum. We were never allowed bubble gum, it was banned in the Passeri household and for a very good reason. We could barely keep it in our mouths. I lost track of the amount of times I had to have it cut out of my hair.

The local shop was run by Mrs E, she was a lovely old lady. Thick jam jar glasses, long tartan skirt and one brooch too many on her jumper. She knew everything and didn’t care who she clipped round the ear, it was in the past, people didn’t mind back then. I was convinced I saw a mouse in the living room, I was terrified so I asked Mrs E if I could borrow her mouse trap (standard village banter).

Once we’d finished with it my mum sent me over the road to return it to her and to bring back some tomatoes for our pasta that evening. I handed back the mouse trap that was in a white paper bag and said that my Mum had asked for tomatoes. Mrs E was such a resourceful woman and couldn’t bare to see a perfectly good paper bag go to waste, so she put the mousetrap back in it’s drawer and put the tomatoes in to the paper bag. The bag that had only seconds ago had a mouse trap in. A used mouse trap I might add. She was a very thrifty lady but was hardly going to win awards for hygiene. Even as a kid I knew this was madness. I handed over the money, said bye to Mrs E and ran across the road back into the house and explained to my mum what had happened. I had one hand on my hip and the other flying around in the air for extra dramatic effect. Spot the mini Italian. I relayed the event to my Mum as if it was the hottest gossip to have ever passed through the village. Which it certainly wasn’t. In my opinion the juiciest gossip was that 3 couples from the posh end of the village were swingers, the evidence was that all the kids looked the same and that the parents were tired in appearance and smug from all the swinging.

Back to the ten pound note that was being handed to us. This is a moral conundrum – do we do as we were told or do we abuse her trust to live out our child like dream. Tricky one. Guess what we did? We went absolutely berserk…The world was ours. I was 9 years old, my little sister was 5 and we were in possession of more money than ever before, not too much money to know what to do with, oh we knew alright. I was going to buy pink, sugary Bubbalicious bubblegum and lots of it! We ran across the road to the shop.

Paper bags were filled with sweeties we were never normally allowed. The ones that Mrs E needed a ladder for. Chocolate mice, pear drops, strawberry bon bons…the delicious albeit forbidden list went on. We even got Mrs E to put in a few blue sweeties, these were another strictly prohibited thing in the Passeri household. My brother is Autistic so all those colourings and E numbers send him wappy and my little sister and I were a little bit nutty (not a medical term). The whole time Mrs E kept asking

‘Are you sure your mum said all the money was for sweets?’

Shit. We’d been rumbled.

I pulled my little sister to one side and whispered ‘listen, we have to get something else to make it look more realistic, she knows mummy would never let us have more than one sweetie each.’

My little sister nodded in agreement. We shuffled back over to the counter, I did my best grown up voice and said ‘we’d also like to purchase 2 carrots and a bin bag.’

‘Okie dokie sweetheart’ we’d got away with it! Part 1 complete. Part 2 was a little more complicated, we had to explain this to our mum.

My mum told us that this crime would send us to prison and we should pack a bag before the police arrive and take us away. We burst into tears. As a bargaining tool we said she could have all the sweeties, including my beloved Bubbalicous bubble gum. She thought for a moment before agreeing to the offer, took the sweets from my hands and phoned the police man and said it was okay. Phew, that was a close one.

 

Posted in comedy

Glitter In All The Wrong Places

‘Miss, erm, oh this is a weird one’

I’m in the Doctors waiting room. I then hear the Doctor nervously call out a strange sound before coughing awkwardly, cueing me to assume it must be my appointment time.

I should probably start being more assertive and insisting on people saying my name properly. I’m getting quite fed up of people’s response to hearing my name being ‘Can I just call you something else?’

‘No you bloody can’t’ is what I should say.

I went through all of university answering to and being referred to as either Laz or Owawa.

Anyway, I digress. Doctors surgery. In I go…

‘Take off your tights and knickers, then lay down on the bed’ says the Doctor, bluntly.

‘Ooh very forward of you, I normally have to be bought dinner before that.’

I thought a pre – smear test joke would be appropriate. She did not laugh.

I did as I was told. I took of my tights and knickers before manoeuvring myself over to the paper topped bed. Shuffling with my knees together to preserve my modesty.

I was then instructed to put my feet towards my bum and open my legs. I knew I looked like a chicken on a baking tray. To make it even more glamorous she then lowered a light over me.

There was a slight pause that felt 10 years long before she said:

‘Oh, Miss Passeri. You’ve certainly made a lot of effort’…’You’re very, erm…sparkly’

A wave of horror came over me as her words began to make sense.

No. No. No.

I then remembered.

I stared at a poster on the wall about the importance of getting enough fruit and veg. The art work was beautiful, the words so profound, the font was perfection. Anything to take my mind off my shimmery ‘cookie’ (this is the bit where I’m going to reference a previous blog post. It’s what all the bloggers do. Sex education blog).

So, here’s a bit of an explanation. I got up late that morning, jumped into the shower and slapped on some body lotion. I did all of this without my contact lenses in. I’m blind as a bat without them in. I’ve even been known to get on the wrong bus and all sorts. I have two body lotions. Both coconut scented, one is normal, one is shimmery for party time. Guess which one I grabbed. Party time was not appropriate for this setting.

You’ll be glad to know I have since binned the sparkly one, I am a  grown-up after all.

So, that’s the reason I’m in a Doctors surgery, legs open and sparkling away. It was all over in a couple of minutes. I got dressed quickly, grabbed my bag, avoided eye contact and headed for the door whilst mumbling an embarrassed ‘Thank you very much.’

I got the door, desperate to leave. So desperate in fact that I actually broke the door handle. It came off in my hand.

‘I bet that happens all the time’ I said to fill the space.

‘No, never’ said the Doctor.

I handed her the door handle and escorted my glittery self as far away from her as possible.

Several months later I was walking through town doing some shopping when I saw someone I recognised but couldn’t think where from. I gave them a big smile and a half wave as we walked past one another. A few moments later I worked it out…it was the Doctor who performed my sparkly smear test. Surprised she recognised me with my clothes on.

Smear tests are bloody important, all females should go…just don’t do what I did.

In all seriousness, if you’re old enough to have a smear test then you have to go. Don’t be stupid and avoid going.

There’s a young woman Called Megan that I know. she is only 23 and has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It’s so important to keep going for check ups and being savvy about your body. She’s currently undergoing chemotherapy. Here’s her Go Fund Me page, any help for her and her sweet little girl would be greatly appreciated.
https://www.gofundme.com/bravetheshavewithmeg

Go for your smear tests, sparkly bits or not, go!