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.

Posted in comedy

Sex Education

Once upon a time, a spotty teenage boy with a flat face confessed to having a massive crush on the school tart. They started going out. This was big gossip. They were known as ‘Bucket and Spade’ …do you get it? She was a tart and he had a flat face. I still laugh to this day. Surely for ‘Bucket and Spade’ to have a happy, healthy relationship then they had to be equipped with all the facts on the ‘birds and the bees’. Luckily, this loved up pair didn’t have to wait long to be educated…today was ‘sex education day’. We were all so excited as we looked at the blackboard and saw the words ‘LETS TALK ABOUT SEX’.

Our form tutor who we all said was ‘kinda fit for an old bloke’ looked like he was on the brink of suicide.  He cleared his throat “Right kids” he croaked. “Shout out slang words for your genitals and I’ll write them on the board.” Brave, brave, stupid man. He began visibly sweating as he wrote the word ‘minge’ on the board. I also looked like a complete twat (coincidently, another word that was shouted out) when I said “In my family we call it a cookie”. I got the fright of my life when I first saw the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. I still remember the image clearly…he was on a bright pink kids swimming costume.

‘I’m the Cookie Monster, I eat cookies!’ I ran out of the shop screaming. This genuinely still keeps me up at night.

When we were little we used to have a satellite dish for Italian television. One day we were watching a cartoon when an image appeared on the screen of lots of naked people in a jacuzzi. They were having a ‘grown up party because they are in love’ as my mum described it to me. My little sister, brother and I ran upstairs to my mum shouting “Mummy, Mummy there’s a man on the telly eating a ladies cookie!” My mum later explained what had happened to my errant father. Instead of acknowledging the problem with the satellite dish and what his poor little kids had seen he was just very irritated that he couldn’t get it on his Italian satellite dish.

In his thick Italian accent he kept saying “Which channel? I missed this, what time and day?”

I’m sure he’s a massive fan of high speed internet, purely for this very reason. No longer will he need to wait weeks between episodes of ‘Jacuzzi Orgy’. He’ll be able to binge on every single episode whenever he likes…including a soul destroying Christmas special. All online.

My sex education growing up didn’t just come from middle aged Geography teachers and accidental Italian porn. There was a boy at school who had experienced everything. We all thought he was amazingly grown up and cool because he had a dragon tattoo and a moustache. Looking back the tattoo was awful and the moustache needed work. One day he gathered a few of us in the playground to pass on some vital information….this is verbatim by the way…

”Last night I was fingering this bird.”

“Oh my god, who?!” a little short lad excitedly asked.

“No questions!” said moustache boy.

He carried on, all of us looking on in awe.

“All of a sudden I started rubbing this little thing on the outside and she went wild for it.”

He had discovered the clitoris, and in that moment had become a legend in our town. If only he had passed this horribly worded information on to more men, I’m sure they would find women nagged them less.

Despite a plethora of educational sources in my past, ‘Grown Up’ Ilaria is still as confused about sex as ‘Little’ Ilaria ever was. This was never more evident than the time I was working as a Creative Practitioner in a school and was unexpectedly asked to cover the PSHE class. The class with the ever changing name. When I was at school we called it ‘Citizenship Class” then it changed to PACE (no one knew what the hell that stood for). The class that teaches you to write a CV, wash your face and basically to not be an arsehole.

This week was supposed to be sex education week (yes, it really can all be covered in a week, apparently). My anxiety levels soared. WHY ME? I am not equipped to deal with this. My main advice would be “Listen kids, don’t do it till you’re 35” followed by “It’s massively overrated and never, I repeat never worth the expensive knickers and certainly not worth the wax.”

Instead, I walked into the class of virgins and introduced myself as Ilaria (not Miss or Mrs, I was desperately trying to make them think I was cool). I told them very earnestly that they could ask absolutely anything and that no one would laugh. This was a lie. I got them all to write down their burning questions onto little scraps of paper and pop them into a hat. This was so they felt able to ask questions they’d be too shy to otherwise ask.

This would’ve worked beautifully if the little sods didn’t put their hands up and say “That’s mine!” after I’d read them out.

Question 1 – When you grow boobs, how many do you grow?

Answer – usually two. What am I saying? Always two.  We’re humans, not farm animals.

Question 2 – When you get down there, which hole do you put it in?

This question needed answering with care. There are a few factors to consider but the main point is – it isn’t pick ’n’ mix.

I couldn’t bear to read out a third question, instead I just played an educational video from my childhood. He might be terrifying but he sure knows how to write and perform a catchy tune. Teenage pregnancy is high in this country and in all honesty, I blame this guy. Everybody, meet ‘Johnny Condom’.

Posted in comedy

The Sexy Chicken Book

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

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

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

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

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

This man has an answer for everything.

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

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

He carries on talking about his shambles of a marriage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s gone.

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

Priorities.

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

Chilling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in comedy

Me And My Recorder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenge accepted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I waited.

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

She’s going to say yes…

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

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

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

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

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

My once favourite, now most hated teacher looked horrified.

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

Posted in comedy

Dead Pets

“We are gathered here today to put to rest Rosie and Jim”

Our guinea pigs inevitably passed away so we did the standard thing of chucking them into a Kwik Save carrier bag, shoving them into a Roses chocolates tin and held a very earnest funeral in our back garden.

My little sister and I invited every kid on the street, including ‘Nathan on the end’ that no one liked.

“We are gathered here today to put to rest Rosie and Jim.” Nathan on the end sniggered. My little sister went mad. She was little but terrifying, all 2 foot of her went into kill mode. She suddenly became all pointed finger and dangerous eyes.  “If you don’t take this seriously you can f**k off.” She was 6 but had the mouth of a truck driver. We still don’t know where she heard such language. My guess, Channel 5.

Nathan on the end apologised and faked crying at the death of Rosie and Jim. “You’re lucky to be invited, no one likes you” she reminded him. The other kids attending the funeral half nodded in agreement.

Truth be told we didn’t really like Rosie and Jim.

My errant father phoned us one day and said in his Italian accent “I have two guinea pigs, you will take them. One boy and one girl.” My mum joked “Hopefully not in the same hutch.” He replied “Yes, same hutch but they are brother and sister.’

Nice idea but I’m pretty sure guinea pigs don’t hold the same moral compass as you and I. They see something, they will try to have sex with it. I have many friends who think and behave in the same way.

A year later we did something very normal, we dug them up. Curiosity got the better of us.

I should’ve known better being the older sister but I was weak willed and morbid.

“You open it.” “No, you.” “You, Ilaria.” “Fine!”

I pulled off the lid and opened the carrier bag to be met with green mist. Every time I’m ill or have a minor ailment I immediately blame it on a delayed reaction to the dead guinea pig mist. We threw the tin down and ran back into the house screaming.

“What the bloody hell were you both expecting to see?” My mum did not feel sorry for us. She’s Glaswegian and takes no shit.

The whole incident put us off guinea pigs so we moved onto having a cat. Chi Chi.

I remember one day she got brown parcel tape stuck to her which meant when I rescued her by ripping it off I had performed my first bikini wax, aged 9.

One morning we looked out of the window and saw her sunbathing in the middle of the road. Spoiler alert, she was not topping up her tan. She was dead.

My mum scooped her up and did the very sensitive thing of laying her down on the front lawn for her children to morbidly stare at all morning. In the afternoon she went out to deal with Chi Chi. She decided to empty out our Barbie box and use it as a non biodegradable coffin. Clever.

The cat was too big for the box so she did the only thing that made sense, she snapped it in half to ensure a snug, albeit, horrific fit. I chose the wrong moment to walk round the corner and ask for a biscuit, her foot was on Chi Chi’s stomach whilst she twatted her feline head against the concrete step.

“Hi love, will you pass me that box?”

I didn’t want a part in this but I’m such a people pleaser that I was suddenly an accomplice.

Moral of the story. Don’t have pets, they die.