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

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 Uncategorized

Sunday Crisps

Today wasn’t an ordinary day. Today was Sunday and that meant ‘Sunday Crisps’

I didn’t realise until a couple of years ago that ‘Sunday Crisps’ was something my stingy Glaswegian Mum (or Mummy in our family. We’re not posh, we’re just pathetic) had invented. I honestly thought every family did it.

With all the fat kids running around (well, not running around) it would do the trick.
I’m not a politician but if Lady Ilaria ever becomes Prime Minister then the first thing I’ll do is introduce ‘Sunday Crisps.’

The sugar tax hasn’t really worked, if you want chocolate you’ll pay any amount for it but ‘Sunday Crisps’ could really take off. One fat kid at a time.

I’ll set the scene for you. Candles lit, we’re in our pyjamas and wrapped up in our crotched blankets. The telly is on, Xena Warrior Princess (I still don’t know if that was a man in a dress. Send answers). Followed by Hulk Hogan starring in the nineties classic ‘Thunder in Paradise.’

My mum must have adored us because having caught glimpses of these programmes as a grown up I have to admit that they are truly awful. That’s probably why she sent us to bed so early.

‘But Mummy, it’s daytime’

‘Go to sleep my wee cabbage flowers’

‘But the light is in our eyes’

‘Not listening. Sleep!’

‘But Mummy, don’t you love us?’

‘Not enough to fall for this rubbish. Now go to sleep, I’m watching Sharpe’

It’s okay though, we got our own back.

We asked our errant Father (or ‘The Italian’ as he’s still referred to, only by us. ) for a drum kit. We knew what we were doing. He wouldn’t buy us school shoes or vegetables but was perfectly happy to pay for something that would drive my Mum mad.

We’d found what we considered to be a loop hole ‘Go to sleep kids’ doesn’t mean DON’T play the drums; And by play, I mean bang the hell out of them with our fists until we got bored. We weren’t stupid, we wouldn’t dare pull this move on a Saturday night out of sheer fear that ‘Sunday Crisps’ may not materialise the following day. It’s a wonder we made it past the age of 10 with such smart arse ways, we were cute as a button though. Even I can see that! Everyone but my mum was sucked in my our chubby cheeks, big brown eyes and muddy knees. These 3 things mean you can get away with murder…almost. DISCLAIMER: This will not stand up in court though, sadly

We couldn’t let Mrs E down, she ran the village shop across the road. She was adorable and scary in equal measures. She’d pretend she was all tough but when we moved house she ran over the road late at night and ‘sold’ us a carpet for a fiver because she knew we were a bit skint. She knew about the Passeri tradition of ‘Sunday Crisps’. Mrs E was so patient as she waited for us to make our choice. It would take us forever to choose and seconds to eat. As a grown up I’m desperately trying to turn that into a metaphor for something deep but I’m struggling. A Wotsit is a Wotsit.

Watching my little brother eat the fluorescent coloured, chemical coated snack highlighted exactly why crisps were not a more regular feature in our house. They would send him wappy for half an hour. He’d have what we used to call a ‘mad 5 minutes’ where he’d turn into the cutest possible version of the Tasmanian Devil.

‘Sunday Crisps’ were definitely worth the mad 5 minutes, they bonded us all. I’d like to say we all shared our crisps but we weren’t very good at that.

When I have a baby I’m going to resurrect ‘Sunday Crisps’ and make Sundays special again and a real treat.

Roll on Sunday. I know you’ll all be doing it.

And incase you’re wondering…Walkers cheese and onion were my crisps of choice, Eleonora went for Skips and Adriano went for Monster Munch. Classics

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!

Posted in comedy

The J Cloth Incident

“Mummy! That lady has got 4 bums”. My brother shouted at a ridiculous volume whilst pointing enthusiastically at a woman, who did indeed have 4 bums. Her shorts were so tight that her arse looked like a pair of festoon curtains.

We were in Flamingo Land, our favourite place in the whole world. Also known as the place parents take their kids if they are too skint to afford Disney Land. Flamingo Land has it all, a funfair, a zoo and a circus. Everywhere you look there are ice cream vans, parents arguing and kids screaming excitedly as they are flung around on the rides. The one thing we didn’t experience were queues. My mum was very smart and did the genius, albeit, illegal thing of taking us off school for a week. It was in the past, things like that were fine then. Flamingo land is in North Yorkshire and people would only go for a day or a weekend. Not us, we’d stay a full week and love it. My favourite bit was choosing our mini box of ‘posh’ branded cereal each morning. The stuff of dreams. I remember sitting in my pyjamas watching telly the morning the news announced the death of Princess Diana. I was more concerned that my brother had eaten my mini box of chocolate cereal.

We’d go to Flamingo Land every year for a week and the remaining weeks of the year were filled with me bragging and showing off about our holidays to anyone in my presence. I’ll be honest with you, I mainly went for a monkey called Albert who lived at the zoo. We’d watch Albert for hours at a time. My poor mum must have been bored stiff. We’d been visiting Albert for years and years and watched him change so much during that time. We’d observed him sniff his mate’s bums, seen him get a monkey wife (Victoria) and we even ignored the rumours that it was a different monkey every year. I loved Flamingo Land so much that I made a 9 year old family friend cry (I was also 9 at the time, I’m not a monster). He’d recently got back from the Canary Islands with stories of his travels. I stared him out for a while before crossing my arms and saying ‘Yeah but did you make friends with a monkey?” He had not. He went home and begged his parents to take him to Flamingo Land. They were a posh family, they wouldn’t take him.

It was all going great until my little sister and I had a near death experience. We ran towards a helicopter ride, we argued on the way there about who would be the pilot. I’m 4 years older but she’s scary so she won and got to be the 5 year old pilot. A truly horrifying concept. As a kid she was terrifying. She’s a grown woman now and I’m reminded the word to use is ‘sassy’. The Flamingo Land staff came round to check all the kids were secured in the rides safely before pressing the start button. They got round to our carriage and realised our safety door was broken. Instead of telling us to go into another helicopter carriage they decided to tie us in using a J cloth. Even as a kid I remember thinking “Well, this seems fucking stupid, surely it’s a joke” But oh no, it was happening. The ride started up. We went higher and higher. The helicopter carriage turned to one side, my side with the metal door, and then tilted the other way…the J cloth side. Oh shit. Shit indeed. J clothes shouldn’t be used to stop kids from dying. My sister and I started screaming for help as we felt the J cloth begin to rip. We looked down at my mum and screamed ‘Mummy! Help us!’ She couldn’t hear us and just smiled and waved. Chilling. I still to this day have no idea how we didn’t die. Whenever I’m shopping for grown up things like scented candles or cleaning products and I stumble across J cloths I shudder at the memory, can’t bring myself to buy them and would much rather use an old sock to clean my shelves.

I recently went back to Flamingo Land, just for the day. Good news, Albert is still there. For some strange reason people kept calling him Tony.