Category Archives: humour

The Boy Who Took My Hand

I was leaving my local library the other day when someone came up behind me and took my hand. I didn’t think anything of it, so it took me a minute, because I’m unsteady and/or unwell most of the time just now (new meds), and hanging onto Max has become a way of life, but it felt ‘wrong’ somewhere in the back of my mind. The hand was too hot and dry, but more importantly it seemed somehow different. I looked down and there was a small boy, maybe five years old, of Middle Eastern descent.

I was so surprised at first I just kept walking. Then I laughed and said, “Hello. But I’m not your mum.”

He looked up at me and his face was a picture. It was shock, horror and then what can only be described as abject terror. There was no embarrassment there, as far as I could tell, but he let go and bolted back into the library to where his actual mother was coming through the foyer. The bona fide mother was a fairly short, round, Turkish-looking woman in a beige coat, with jet black hair and black glasses. She was also about twenty years my junior. She was not wearing leggings, a Mickey Mouse T shirt and sandals, nor did she have a shaved grey head with a punk mop of curls on top, big-ass earrings and an armful of bangles. In other words, she looked nothing like me.

She didn’t seem to have the first idea what her son had done, although the way he grabbed her hand and stuck to her side like a limpet probably made her think I had attempted to abduct him.

I was inexplicably tickled pink by this encounter. Partly because it was so novel. It’s not every day someone comes up to you in the street and simply takes your hand. Partly it was because we were both walking along the road, both oblivious to the fact that we were holding drastically wrong versions of our partner. And partly it was because no-one has ever taken my hand like that. I didn’t know it quite yet, but they hadn’t.

I don’t know if it’s tragic or wonderful that it’s taken me to the age of fifty-seven to feel this magical sensation, but hey! I might have died and never felt it, so let’s look on the bright side.

I was perplexed at first as to how I hadn’t noticed it was a tiny child and not a six foot male. He’d come up behind me and slid his hand into mine, so not seeing the physical difference is explicable, although how he could have mistaken me, God alone knows, since I bore zero resemblance to his mother. But maybe he was looking at his feet, or out at the road or something – who knows?

But the almost euphoric gratification I felt – I couldn’t put a name to it. When we were laughing about it afterwards I heard myself say, “It took me a minute to realise it wasn’t you,” but what struck me was that the first thing I registered as wrong was not the huge difference in size (and hairiness) but the heat and dryness of his hand. The sheer experience of his hand – it was just wrong. Max doesn’t suffer from sweaty palms, in case that’s what you’re all thinking – these hands just felt different, like snakes are supposed to feel. And I say that with love.

But it was then I realised that wasn’t the strangest thing to have first struck me, although it should have been, it was because what really told me I had the wrong person in tow was the way he took my hand. He wasn’t leading me or taking possession of me. It wasn’t habit or distracted reassurance, it was surrender. He didn’t take my hand, he gave me his. It was a handing over, a coming into port. He was offering himself to be led. He, in effect, just handed his care over to me.

It was such a phenomenally different feeling I just kept turning it over in my mind. And yes, I get ‘overemotional’ these days (a term designed by men to describe their lack of human emotions), but I swear this wasn’t that. This was a real, genuine discovery. I couldn’t fathom it.

I used to have a little brother. I still do, obviously, but he’s no longer little and I no longer take his hand, but I must have held a child’s hand before. I’m pretty sure I’ve even done it as an adult, on those rare occasions I’ve been somewhere and had to take on that task.

No, maybe not, on consideration. But I did definitely have that responsibility as a child. Why then don’t I remember ever experiencing this before? Is it possible that my own brother never had this security with me? That he never did hand his trust over to me like that? Am I, or was I, missing that gene even as a child? Does a child have to be brought up a certain way to hand over his trust like that, or does it take a certain type of child, and neither me nor my brother were those people? Did neither of us ever feel secure enough to hand over anything to another person, even as children?

Who knows? But I can tell you this, it’s a great feeling. I’ve never understood why people have children, other than force of habit. I’ve always considered them chiefly an ego-trip for men, and everyday sexism for women. I think most people have them simply because it’s a cultural norm we all buy into. It’s tradition, innit? And I don’t mean that as cynically as it sounds. There are many people who enjoy children and who actively want them; it’s just not most of the people who actually have them.

I wouldn’t have believed that feeling existed before that day. I wouldn’t have believed that there was any particular way to take someone’s hand, other than obvious things like people grabbing you out of cars and throwing you on the driveway before a beating. To have experienced that subtlety of feeling is by no means an odd thing for me; subtlety of feeling is my stock in trade, but for it to exist at all, and to have never encountered it before, that’s an oddity.

But I’m glad I did feel it. I admit it sent me into a flurry of wondering if I should have had children: ‘Should I foster?’ ‘I should have adopted’. But I realised that one tiny feeling does not a lifestyle make, and there would be plenty of times when the kid would be screaming or yelling or being such a pain that it would more than negate a tiny moment of hand holding.

But boy it was good. Really, really satisfying. To have someone just put their hand into yours, with all that confidence, that surety that you would protect them, see them safely home. Truly, a gift rarer than pearls.

Thanks, weird little kid – whoever you are. You made my day.

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The Book of Your Enemy Has Been Compacted

Oh mine enemies, here is your moment of sublime schadenfreude: this morning at exactly 10.15 a.m. I was awoken by the sound of a large truck rolling up at my house.

The Moment of Death had arrived.

I pulled the duvet over my head and tried not to listen, but it was no good. I could hear the hearty comedians of waste disposal hefting the trembling volumes. I could hear the giant engine of Armageddon munching my words. Yes, my books were fed into a compactor. Yes I could hear Danny’s screams as he was crushed in iron jaws. All 1,290 of him (we kept two boxes).

Oh the tragedy, oh the pain.

We tried everything in the months beforehand to avoid this waste, but after many disappointments (at one time Healthy Planet was going to take them and give them away in shopping malls throughout Britain; oh joyous escape, that was, sadly, dashed), we had to admit defeat and arrange for them to be pulped.

To add further indignity to this miserable story of dashed hopes and broken dreams, we had to PAY £75 to the council for said comedians to destroy my work, figuratively, right in front of my face. Or at least within my hearing.

I am going to sit here and lick my wounds, but to all my enemies who have worked their damndest to get DANNY, and me, banned in as many places as possible, I dedicate this poem. My (books’) fate may have been worse than that of Clive James’ enemy, but the sentiments remain the same.


By Clive James

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered.
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy’s much-praised effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life’s vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one’s enemy’s book—
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and the banks of duds,
These ponderous and seemingly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs.

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I rejoice.
It has gone with bowed head like a defeated legion
Beneath the yoke.
What avail him now his awards and prizes,
The praise expended upon his meticulous technique,
His individual new voice?
Knocked into the middle of next week
His brainchild now consorts with the bad buys,
The sinkers, clinkers, dogs and dregs,
The Edsels of the world of movable type,
The bummers that no amount of hype could shift,
The unbudgeable turkeys.

Yea, his slim volume with its understated wrapper
Bathes in the glare of the brightly jacketed Hitler’s War Machine,
His unmistakably individual new voice
Shares the same scrapyard with a forlorn skyscraper
Of The Kung-Fu Cookbook,
His honesty, proclaimed by himself and believed in by others,
His renowned abhorrence of all posturing and pretence,
Is there with Pertwee’s Promenades and Pierrots—
One Hundred Years of Seaside Entertainment,
And (oh, this above all) his sensibility,
His sensibility and its hair-like filaments,
His delicate, quivering sensibility is now as one
With Barbara Windsor’s Book of Boobs,
A volume graced by the descriptive rubric
‘My boobs will give everyone hours of fun’.

Soon now a book of mine could be remaindered also,
Though not to the monumental extent
In which the chastisement of remaindering has been meted out
To the book of my enemy,
Since in the case of my own book it will be due
To a miscalculated print run, a marketing error—
Nothing to do with merit.
But just supposing that such an event should hold
Some slight element of sadness, it will be offset
By the memory of this sweet moment.
Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets!
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am glad.

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I’m not crazy, it’s my neighbours… (honestly!)

While looking for photographs of Charles Saatchi, of all things, I came across this. (For those who worry about such things, it was in an article about CS complaining about his neighbous – hey, he has the same initials as me…)

As I am one of those sad/exciting souls who likes to move house a lot, and who is finally going to try moving country this year, I have had a LOT of neighbours. Those neighbours have done some very strange things, to which I have done strange things right back: posting a dog shit through someone’s door, throwing chocolate biscuits onto someone’s balcony, posting beer cans through someone’s letter-box, having knockdown fights about a vaccum cleaner, an outdoor toilet, a huge truck being parked in front of my window – I mean right in front, as in six inches, completely obliterating all light – to name but a few. Hey, I was provoked.

However, the list of my neighbours’ madness is even worse: seal woman’s outdoor orgasms (don’t ask), the lesbians who had sex in the bath while playing guitar, and the downstairs neighbour who used to beat her husband with his proshtetic leg while he was drunk (I actually liked those nutcases; good times).

As yes, a gypsy life is a wondrous thing.

Anyway, I found these gems at the bottom of said article and they make my collection of nutty neighbours look very tame indeed. I never thought I would laugh about annoying neighbours ever again, but I did.


Neighbour complaints from Twitter: is this as bad as it gets?

@Cornettofairy My neighbours dug up my garden in the night, flattened it, and have put up a marquee which they use as a church.

@NadiaKamil I used to live beneath backpackers who at night threw themselves down the stairs & photographed it for fun.

@SoooooZee An ex-neighbour once stood outside & yelled “WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY LOUNGE?” Then stood there looking embarrassed until I closed the blinds.

@dodgrile An old neighbour used to superglue cigarette butts to my house and car in the middle of the night. That was fun.

@clarehr A neighbour appeared at the window opposite with a sign: “HELP I’m hostage at gunpoint.” We called the police; when they arrived she denied all knowledge.

@jamescator I have a crazy preacher neighbour who rings a handbell at 4am for an hour whilst chanting religiously.

@karlhodge My neighbour bangs on my door at 6.30 in the morning shouting for “Andy”. No one in my house is called Andy.

@moonjam One neighbour tried to drunkenly open our front door with their key. And put an entire washing machine in the communal bin.

@stuartdredge I had a neighbour who took a boat-load of strange drugs and ended up being led away after shooting our milkman with a BB gun.

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The Sea Monkeys of Doom

Well, How to Write The Perfect Novel is now live everywhere. What’s more, it’s already into its second edition. This, of course, is because I did indeed find a half dozen mistakes I’d somehow missed, plus a positive forest of commas and colons I absolutely had to add. Ah, that old anti-fan surely started something with her pedantry. I hope on her death she’ll at least be credited with creating an excess of commas in the prose of Chancery Stone. A fitting epitaph.

Anyway, second edition is all shiny and error-free. My apologies to whoever it was in the States who rushed out and bought one before they were officially launched. If you want a replacement contact Max at Poison Pixie and we’ll be glad to swap it for the ‘new’, revised edition. On the other hand, you own one of the only two printed of the ‘first edition’. I’ve got the other one, which we’ll be selling on Amazon shortly, complete with my yellow marker pen error corrections and some of me scribbles.

Anyone sad enough to want to own the copy that Chancery Stone corrected? Ah, you know you do. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you when it’s on. It’ll be dirt cheap – I’m not Sotheby worthy yet. (Maybe never will be. I reckon I’m too rude for ’em.)

Max has submitted the last, last (allegedly) draft of his Orkney book and, all being well, he should get the second of his advance cheques. A respectable sum, but only enough for one yacht or car – not both. Ah well, suppose you can’t have everything.

What’s more, despite my Skin Two ad doing quite well after all, he sold 75 copies of Illustration 101 last month. 75 of the motherfuckers. I find it hard to believe everyone was buying their granny How to Be an Illustrator books. We reckon he has to have been written about somewhere. Trouble is, sometimes it’s not on the web or, even if it is, it’s in some obscure personal site that never surfaces on Google.

This blog has also been having outrageously high ratings (for me) since Christmas (I think) and I’ve no idea where they’ve come from. Nothing on Google. Who knows? Who cares? The come, they go.

So, been writing Perfect Novel publicity, and we’ve already got four people waiting to review the book and we haven’t even promoted it yet. Nada. I wish I could get them as keen for DANNY.

We’ve even sold two copies – one in the US and one in the UK – without any notification anywhere – not even on this blog. Of course, could be this will be the only two I’ll ever sell.

Of course, DANNY’s been completely sidelined by this mother. I’m contemplating employing Gillian the typist to proofread DANNY V1 for the US edition so that I can just get onto V3/1. Oh yes, DANNY Volume 3, I remember that. That was that book I was supposed to be doing before writing non-fiction (not a biography, Jill) completely took over my life.

That and the rearing of Sea Monkeys, of course. Got them for my Christmas. And what a fucking nightmare they turned out to be, I can tell you.

Never, ever give your children Sea Monkeys. It will destroy their hearts and shrivel their souls.

I’d wanted Sea Monkeys since I first saw them, aged ten, on the back of a Classics Illustrated that my cousin Isobel had. What wondrous creatures. What lucky Americans.

I positively pestered Max to buy me some for my Christmas (I got an ant farm for my birthday). And after a thirty foot banner erected in the living room he got the hint.

I was disappointed when I got the small plastic kitchen canister which constituted their “Ocean Bubble Tank”. Yeah, right. But hell, these were Sea Monkeys.

I read the instructions, keen to start, and felt my first faint stirrings of unease. Monkeys liked the sun, but not direct sun. Well, not a problem; they’d be lucky to see any fucking sun at all here. It’s getting dark by 3:30. This is Aberdeen. In Scotland. Know what I mean?

Then I noticed the feeding instructions were different in the ‘manual’ (a four page tiny booklet) from those on the packets – and different yet again in the other instructions on the third leaflet. Damn, this wasn’t looking good.

Still, set it up, I did. I boiled my water, I let it sit, I did it all by the book/s. Finally, I get to stir in my egg mix. I watched the tank eagerly, waiting for my “Instant LIFE!!!”

An hour went by, two, three, a whole evening. No monkeys, no life. I went back to the booklet. What was I doing wrong?

SHIT! I hadn’t rinsed out the tank with hot water. Oh no. Heart sinks. Still, how dirty could it be? It had been wrapped in cellophane, nothing had touched it. Open tank, fill with water. In nature they had to cope with much worse than some packing dust.

BIG mistake. My Sea Monkeys were obviously the Weak Monkeys of Utah (where they come from). No life. No life the next day. Or the day after. Many times I went to the ‘book’. Each time I came out more confused than the time before. Was my window North or South facing? Did it make any difference anyway as my frames are higher than the height of the tank so, supposing they were in full belting sun for twenty hours a day, it still wouldn’t touch them. I tried them with lamps above the tank, terrified all the time that I’d fry them: “Sea Monkeys prefer cold” – yeah, but California cold. I mean, what the fuck is cold? In California?

Four days went by, five, I haunted the internet, finding in the process the Sea Monkey lady, a barking hypochondriac who sees people mocking her Sea Monkeys as “flaming”. Oh, if she only knew. I could lend her some of my “flamers”, show her what the real thing looks like; I’ve got plenty to spare.

I also found Netyfish, and Uncle Sea Monkey, and a million and one bloggers who had either failed entirely to raise Sea Monkeys (common) or had partial success (also common). Not so common were the people who had tanks of happy Sea Monkeys living long and glorious lives. And I think every one who did probably lived in California, or Mexico, or Florida. Anywhere where there was sun and heat. Not cold. And not Aberdeen cold. Or dark.

Eventually, when it was too late, I discovered that the Sea Monkey Corps’ idea of “cold” was around 70/80 degrees Fahrenheit – so far from cold it’s like calling Greece Alaska.

My Sea Monkeys were doomed. At around the fifth or sixth day I got a new problem. No monkeys, but lovely wispy clouds of white stuff like smoke in water. This did not look good. But was it supposed to be there? Nothing in book. Back to the internet.

No, no, NO, said the Monkey Lady – it will kill your tank. You must remove it immediately. It’s fine, said Yellowpencil of Birmingham: My Monkeys had the “white cotton” and they’re fine.

Liar. Sea Monkey Lady was right. But, unfortunately, I found this out the hard way.

On day nine, at 2:30 am (I keep late hours, okay?) I was standing in the kitchen peering at the tank without my glasses on (I have weird magnification eyesight when I’m not wearing optical devices. It’s my special power. Unfortunately I can’t see further than six inches from my face otherwise. However, if I ever want to be Super Mole I’m sorted.) when I spotted movement. I’ve got Sea Monkeys, I shrieked. I was so excited I almost cried. I thought I’d seen two, but I wasn’t sure.

I’d been aerating the tank with a turkey baster (don’t ask) for a couple of days – again, not sure if I was supposed to be aerating or not if the damn things hadn’t hatched – and all the cotton had broken up. So now it was little wisps and balls on the bottom of the tank. Couldn’t do any harm, I figured. Sea Monkey was swimming away, doing somersaults and body flips just like I’d heard. I was overjoyed.

Next day my joy doubled. I did indeed have two Sea Monkeys. God damn.

Didn’t last. After day five I had to feed them. Again, different instructions on the packet from in the book. Jesus Christ, they’ve been selling these things for fifty-one years – couldn’t they fucking agree on the ‘How tos’ on any two pieces of their merchandise? I decided to play it safe since I was told overfeeding was the worst thing you could do – they got half a tiny scoop of food.

Now what I’m not telling you about these trials and tribulations is my state of mind. I’m an anxious, depressive, compulsive person, okay? I have a terrible, terrible weakness for small vulnerable creatures. It’s almost a debilitating affliction. I don’t much like people and I am in no way soppy or sentimental about animals, detesting animal clothing (would you like to eat out a bowl on the floor, or shit in the park? – don’t answer that), cutie animal pictures, dog lovers in Labrador sweat shirts and people who breed animals for their interesting genetic flaws – like no fucking fur, or a pushed-up face that makes it difficult to eat. But, I simply cannot take anything smacking of animal cruelty. Or even distress. Just can’t handle it.

When I was a kid I would literally cry for hours, sometimes cry myself to sleep, over anything involving animal distress (children are a close second for me – you don’t hurt the kid, okay?) My father attempted to bully me out of it, by sneering, mocking and outright contempt. My mother used to just look at me with mystification, but agreed I needed to be ‘toughened up’. So toughen up, I did. I learned to hate people and kept my empathy for animals secret. This is how they make men, by the way. They take whatever sensitivity they show – aka ‘weakness’ or ‘being a poof’ – and stomp on it until the men are so flinty inside they are completely unable to empathise with anyone. They call this ‘being a man’. They then criticise them for having no empathic skills and being unable to “talk about their feelings”. The words ‘Make your fucking mind up’ come to mind.

But I digress, the sum total of The Worst Christmas Present I Ever Got, as I have christened it, was I couldn’t sleep. I mean worse than normal. I’m a poor sleeper at the best of times, often lying awake for up to an hour after I go to bed. But this was closer to two hours, and, worse, when I did sleep I could do nothing but have what I call counting dreams.

When I’m particularly disturbed or stressed I don’t dream proper dreams, only something that’s closest to a coded message, where I have to solve a puzzle, or say a word over and over, or get to a place and do a thing to make something ‘work’. Generally, these dreams will be haunted by words. It’s like they have a soundtrack where I’ll hear – in this case – the words ‘Sea Monkey’ over and over. (You’re right, that does just sound like a comedy sketch.)

They may not sound it, but they are deeply distressing and they make me wake up tired, with frayed nerves and very sore teeth (clamping them during the night). Think sensory torture – repeating sounds or lights over and over – and you’ve got the picture.

Well, that was me and the invisible Sea Monkeys. All day on the internet trying to find how to make things right, and all night dreaming about them in the most useless, repetitious and totally unhelpful way. By the time the first Sea Monkey disappeared – assumed dead – I was ready to kill myself.

Eventually, determined to save the life of my last remaining Sea Monkey, I took drastic action. He got his tiny self (about the size of a big pinhead) caught in some of the gunk, aka “white cotton”, and couldn’t get it off. He was lying down the bottom of the tank, listless. I leapt into desperate action, setting up a Sea Monkey surgery. I drained his tank, keeping him in a glass candle holder, and sieved his water through a tea strainer, ruining the possibility for any more Monkeys in the process – but this was life or death. Then, with the aid of a toothpick, I nerve-wrackingly cleaned the gunk anchored to his tail.

Result: one happy and liberated Sea Monkey, back to cartwheeling. I, of course, had to recriminate myself for not acting sooner (I hadn’t wanted to lose my remaining eggs). Guilt’s my next big thing. Just love that guilt. It’s what makes me the special person I am.

Next day – disaster. Sea Monkey (now named Gloria ‘I will survive’ Sea Monkey) has a small ball of gunk stuck to his stomach, unable to move it. He’s back to the bottom of the tank. I’m racking my brains. Obviously this lethal “white cotton” is really, really sticky – probably its means of survival – even in tiny fragments that can get through a tea-strainer. I set up the surgery again. No good. Unlike the first time, this is much too small and close to the tiny beast’s body. No way the plank-sized – relatively speaking – toothpick can get in there without impaling him.

I try everything: needles, nylon thread, bristle from a bottle brush. Everything is far too dangerous to him. I give up, but I clean his tank out again, this time siphoning through paper towel in the tea strainer so nothing can get back in there. The tank is scrubbed in boiling water with a toothbrush and a tiny bottle brush from my e-bay antiquing days. I put him back in his tank and go out to town, hoping he might work it loose himself.

And he did. God bless him. I strain his water yet again. It is now like crystal and I reward him with a quarter spoonful of food all to himself – fretting all the while that now I’m overfeeding him, of course. Now you see why I couldn’t ever be a mother. It’s overkill.

So, as at today, the Sea Monkey is still alive, all by himself in a tank now devoid of eggs and the possibility of anything else hatching. If he’s male, when he dies, the tank dies with him. Always supposing some other mystery ailment doesn’t get him first.

I wrote to the firm Max had bought the Sea Monkeys from and demanded my money back on the grounds of an absolutely miserable Christmas – not to mention Trades Description breaches. They’ve said okay, bless them. I will probably foolishly blow the money on replacement eggs to try again, and breed some mates for him so he doesn’t die of loneliness. All this for glorified fish food, too small to be seen with the naked eye. Some people never learn.

All I would say is, unless you live in California or your child has no heart, do not ever buy your child Sea Monkeys. The only thing they bring “instantly to life” is neurosis.

On the other hand, I am now something of an unintentional expert on Sea Monkeys. Feel free to send me any questions. And if Gloria makes it to adulthood I’ll be sure to post a picture.

P.S. Shit, I always forget this. The Perfect Novel is available as a freebie on Goodreads, but Max says there’s already almost a hundred folk up for it. Like I said before though, it’s a random selection, so you stand as good a chance as anybody. Here’s the link: I’m afraid Chancery Stone has mocked me, as well as Nora Roberts, in her new book, but I’m damned if I’m buying it. Thank God, I can get one free here. Jesus Christ, just went to get this link and see there’s now 339 people. Well, fuck me.

I Shopped My Mum to the Cops! My life story, as told by Take-a-Break

I hear a lot about the ‘unrealism’ of DANNY, in one way or another, and it got me thinking about the usual representations of abuse in ‘fact’ and fiction.

After that, I realised it’s time I made an effort to join in/ put things right. I should write abuse more accurately, more “realistically”. And to illustrate just how ‘accurately’ popular culture handles abuse I’m going to use “A True Life Story” – my own – as the basis for my mainstreaming forays into “gritty reality”.

Yes, here today (and possibly for a few blogisodes after this, if the fancy takes me) you’re going to see the full horror of my childhood laid out far more “realistically” and in a way you will all finally be able to relate to.

My ‘In the Style of…” series starts with Take a Break. I don’t know what the equivalent is in the US, or elsewhere, but if I tell you it’s the UK’s original and best “Real Life Stories” magazine, and features a weekly collection of desperate low-lifes getting a few bucks for their horror stories of abuse, murder, mayhem and dying children, I reckon you’ll know your own country’s version immediately. Think Jerry Springer in print and you’re close.

For the sake of brevity, and because evil mums are great, I have pushed both parents into one. I have also given my story the requisite happy, upbeat, positive ending. Unfortunately, it’s also not true, but I’ve come to realise that being truthful is not nearly as important as being “realistic”, and in the “real world” victims are always saved, and always learn A Life Lesson, so I’ve provided both. When I’m reincarnated I’ll be sure to get that right next time.

So here it is, I SHOPPED MY MUM TO THE COPS!, My Life Story as told by Take a Break…

“But Mum…” I cried, as I begged once again for my mum, Mary Henery (37), to let me go with my friends to the disco.

But all I got was a slap. “Didn’t I tell you to get that washing-up done?” Another slap sent me spinning to the floor. I lay there, trying to keep still, trying not to provoke her rage.

Why did Mum treat me like this? Why? I tried to be a good daughter. I washed and cooked and sewed and looked after my young brother, Andrew (7). But it was never good enough.

Every night Mum came in from work, stinking of perfume, dressed in sexy clothes I wasn’t allowed myself. “What have you been doing?” she’d snarl at me.

“N…n…nothing,” I’d whimper, trying not to cringe in case she struck out at me again. I soon learned to keep my head down and get on with my chores. From early in the morning till late at night I’d be doing all the things Mum should do but didn’t. She was too busy planning her latest outfit, buying sexy mini-dresses from the Bargain Centre (4) in Glasgow (938) and trying out false eyelashes to wear to that Saturday’s dance at Centre 1 (10).

Centre 1 was the Tax Office where my mother worked as a clerk and flirted with all the strange men she couldn’t seem to stay away from.

Years later, when my parents divorced, I was to hear from my Dad that my mother had always had a string of men, but then I never suspected. I just wanted her to love me.

Maybe if I tried harder at school? But I was already doing the best I could, trying to make Mum proud of me. But that night when she came home it was the same old story. “Get that fire made up”, “Isn’t dinner ready yet?”, “I told you to bleach those sheets.” It just never stopped.

I’d fall into bed every night and cry myself to sleep. Why couldn’t Mum love me? What had I done wrong? I must be a bad daughter. “If only I could change…” I shivered, as I turned over in my cold bed. Mum only ever gave me one blanket, and I wasn’t allowed a heater in my room, so I had to study up there every night, my feet wrapped in a coat, frost forming inside the window, trying desperately hard to please my perfect, gorgeous mother.

She was a real sex symbol, known in the district for her red hair and her short mini-dresses and her PVC boots. She even owned green satin hot pants which were all the fashion then. Other mums were dull and frumpy, and I knew how lucky I was, Mum told me all the time, but oh how I wished I had a loving, homely mum who looked after me and made me tea and cakes.

Instead I had to get my little brother up every morning for school and try and get him dressed and fed, then get myself out too. When I came home it was all chores then upstairs to study. I wasn’t allowed to go out anywhere. And the only clothes I owned were my school uniform and a cheap shirt I’d bought myself by saving up my weekly 20p pocket money.

I sighed and gazed out the back window as I did yet another load of washing, my hands red and stinging from the bleach. All my friends went to the Olympia Ballroom (19), but I wasn’t allowed. “They have knife fights there. You’re not going.”

But I’d never heard of any knife fights. Just like her excuse for not buying me any clothes. “Where have you got to wear clothes to?” she’d sneer, selecting a pair of huge dangly earrings from the porcelain bowl she kept in the kitchen sideboard as she applied more bright blue eyeshadow to her eyelids.

“Other girls get to go out…” I trembled.

“Other girls don’t get the benefit of an education,” she spat back at me. “Other girls are made to leave school at sixteen. Me and your father are paying to keep you on at school so you can make something of your life, not waste it in some factory.”

I cowered back from her distorted, rage-filled face. “It’s not fair,” I wailed. “I don’t have anything to wear. Look at these ugly shoes,” I pleaded, pointing at the big black policewoman’s shoes she made me wear. “All the other girls laugh at me.”

Suddenly she was grabbing me and shaking me, pounding my head and body with her fists, swearing, calling me filthy names…

“Oh no. No, Mum, no. Please don’t hurt me again…” I grovelled. But it was no good. She dragged me upstairs and into the bathroom. I knew I was going to die, but all I could think about was my little brother, poor little Andrew. What would he do without me to take care of him? Mum wouldn’t be there to feed him, make sure he got a proper lunch. I had to survive for little Andrew’s sake.

I struggled as she tried to shove my head down the toilet, but she was so strong, like a madwoman. “Mum, Mum…” I spluttered again. But she was beyond hearing me. She was insane with fury.

I had to stop her. I had to. I fumbled back with my hand and found the toilet brush. I couldn’t see, water was going up my nose, I was drowning. Oh no, I thought, as I began to fade away. I was dying. Then, suddenly, my hand found the handle. I swung it round and smacked her in the face with it, hard as I could.

I heard her gasp, her hold slackened. I struggled away from the toilet bowl and coughed up the water in my lungs. I had nearly died. I looked at Mum, crumpled there on the floor.

She was crying now, mumbling, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” over and over. But I knew she wasn’t sorry. I knew this time it had gone too far. Suddenly I was filled with a sense of purpose. I had to stop this. “I’m phoning the police,” I asserted.

Immediately Mum was clinging to my legs. “No, please, don’t,” she moaned.

But I pushed her off, mascara running down her face. “Yes, Mum, I am. You need help. This has got to stop.”

Mum dropped her head in shame. The true woman under the sexy skirts and garish make-up had been revealed. She was broken. I left her there in a heap and went downstairs and phoned the police.

Afterwards there was talk about me in the street, all over the district. How could I have shopped my own mother? But they didn’t know her like I did. All they saw was the beautiful façade she put on in front of the world. After the divorce, when all the stuff about Mum and her men came out, people would come up to me in the street and say, “You did the right thing.” But it was too late then. No-one had been there to help me when I was a lonely child going though hell.

I’m not proud of what I did, although I do realise now that it had to be done. Mum hadn’t left me any option. I tried my best, but Mum simply couldn’t accept my love. Really she was the victim. She had lost her only daughter just so she could appear young and hip and trendy and attract the men she craved.

Mum and I still aren’t talking, and my brother hasn’t forgiven me for shopping her – he was too young to understand – but I hope someday they’ll see I only did it because I loved them.

As told to Isobel Dalry @ Take a Break

NEXT WEEK! DARK HEART OF SHAME – My life as an Odyssey True Story