read all about it

Awww, you guys.

The reaction to my last blog really touched me. It was so sweet and illustrated two things.

Firstly, it shows me that people do actually read this drivel. I was at lunch with a friend the other day who said that she had read my blog and that she had started writing a blog a while ago but had stopped writing it because it had ‘become too much of a chore’. That’s no good we both agreed – writing a blog should be fun. And so it is. For me anyway. It’s a delightful, cathartic release of all the nonsense that is swimming around inside my head. A capturing of my daily thoughts. Well, my weekly or ten-daily thoughts. This mustn’t become a chore remember? It’s an account of the comings and goings; the musings and ruminations; the opinions and the folly. Basically, I’m letting you read my diary.

I have kept a diary ever since I learned to write. I still have them all. From the illustrated and very detailed descriptions of visits to my grandparents and camping trips aged five, to the slightly more inane ramblings of an almost forty year old.

Then I stopped. The diaries just come to an end. Like I’d died. Or run out of ink.

Of course what actually happened is the world went digital. It was around the same time as my second niece was born. My lovely, delightful, wonderful second niece who sits on my lap leafing through reams and reams of photo albums crammed with postcard sized images of her older sister in her pram, with her favourite teddy, with ice cream running down her chin, playing in the snow, and asks, “why haven’t you got any pictures of me Lala?”

“Oh, well, I have….I’ve got loads. It’s just, they’re on the computer.”

“Can we look at them?”

“Er, well, we can…but I’ll have to set it all up and the pictures of you are mixed in with all sorts of other pictures of other things that I’m sure you don’t want to see.”

“But can we look at some pictures of me?”

“Of course we can…at some point. I need to organise them into albums.”

“Like these albums? All nice like this?”

“No, not really sweetheart. Because they’re not printed up like these ones. Not on paper, in an album. They’re on the computer.”

“Not the same?”

“No. Not the same. You’re absolutely right. Not the same at all.”

Likewise, no more diaries. No more leatherbound books, tattered at the corners, worn from being thrown into a suitcase or an overnight bag. No more sitting up late on a Sunday night by the bedside lamp with a cup of tea recounting the events of the ’best weekend EVER’. No more pages locked with a tiny padlock containing the warning…”Private…do not read.” Then, on the next page…”I said, Do not read.” And on the next…”Can’t you read? I said, DO NOT READ.” Then “Put this diary down right now, this is PRIVATE.” Only to be followed by a book containing only blank pages because I wasn’t really exotic enough to have many secrets at age twelve.

I stopped writing with a pen and paper and started to type my thoughts on a keyboard and save them in documents titled dubiously ‘THAT night’, or ‘It happened AGAIN’. And in going digital, like so many others, I also went public.

And so this is what we do now. We blog. We tweet. We recount all our adventures, our nights out, our family gatherings and celebrations on facebook, on instagram, online. Cropped and captioned. Shared and airbrushed.

And because I’ve always kept a diary, I’m in. Because I enjoy writing and recounting and storytelling, this is right up my street. And because I then put it out there, people read it. You guys. Look. You’re reading it now. So, hey…thanks. Thanks for reading. I’d sort of forgotten you were there. But you are. So that’s the first thing I’ve learnt.

That you’re there. Reading my blog. Whatever it is or it is supposed to be. I know I’ve specified that it’s not going to be a blog solely about diets and drinking – and look at me today – I haven’t mentioned either. Fab.

The second thing I’ve learned is….is….oh. The second thing is about diets and drinking. Maybe I’ll leave it there for today.

After all, I wouldn’t want it to become too much of a chore.

5.55pm

So, ‘dry’ February has turned out to be a bit of a wash out. Surprised? Yep. Guess what? I failed. I set myself up again. And I failed again. Why do I do it? Why do I think that just because I’ve given the challenge a fancy title with quotation marks I will suddenly have the strength and determination to abstain from a substance that has been my dearest friend and closest ally for almost three decades? Even when I’ve had some mouth-watering soft drink suggestions and one or two helpful hints for not drinking anything at all. Nil by mouth never tasted so good.

Right, so, this isn’t going to be a blog about giving up drinking, just as in February last year this was not going to be a blog about going on a diet – but I was so pleased with myself for going without booze for an entire week and I was really looking forward to reporting the newly discovered spring in my step, the feeling of lightness in my head and the almost sure certainty that I hadn’t said anything stupid or acted like a complete twat for a full 96 hours. But then I fell.

At which hurdle did I fall? I hear you ask. Was it a raucous party at the weekend? An after-show ‘do’? A wedding? A sunday afternoon session?

No.

It was a quiet night in at my mum and dads. It was a quiet night in that involved, as all evenings at my mum and dads involve, the six o’clock G&T. The lovely G&T in the delightful ‘crystal cut’ glasses that dad got free with the petrol. The chink of the ice against the glass as dad calls out to me “Gin, love?” not even having to add “and tonic,” for he knows that I know what he means. The ‘schtuk’ as the slice of lemon is thrown in, then the familiar sound of the metal lid of the gin bottle being unscrewed and the glug, glug, glug, as a hefty measure is expertly poured. Then the ‘fzzzz’ of the tonic, invariably followed by the “oh shit” of the tonic spraying onto the shirt, followed by the ‘psshhh’ of the tonic fizzing into the glass. The delicious masterpiece is complete. Yum yum yum.

I could feel my resolve weakening by 5.30pm. I knew it was coming. I knew I needed to pre-warn my dad, to let him know in advance that I wouldn’t be having a gin and tonic tonight at six o’clock. I needed to tip him off. I had done this before – asked for just a tonic with ice and lemon. So it looks like a gin and tonic but without the gin. I remember their reaction on that occasion. Slightly confused and almost a little bit offended.

“Are you sure? No Gin? Why not?”

Of course I was trying to be good but their other assumption was that I was only joking. “Really? Honestly? You’re not having a gin?” Said this time in a tone that suggested “Okay, but you’ll be sorry…You’re the one missing out…”

Thing is, I know I’m missing out. And I really, really want to join them in their polite and quaint english family custom. But it doesn’t stop at one for me, especially not within reach of my parent’s fabulously stocked drinks cabinet and so actually the truth is that if I do have a gin I will end up missing out in the long run; on conversation, balance and event recall; and I will undoubtably be sorry.

By 5.45pm I’m on the phone to the support line of my sister-in-law. “It’s Friday night, and I really want to have a gin with mum and dad.”

“Course you do. That’s what you do on Friday night at your mum and dads.”

“But I can’t…”

“Why not?”

“Erm…I…I…because…because, well…” suddenly ‘dry’ February seems a bit daft. It’s Friday night. I’m at mum and dads. It’s six o’clock. “I’m trying, well, I’m sort of, it’s…”

“Gin, love?”

“Thanks, dad.”

Easy as that. No resolve at all. None. That’s how it happened. That’s the hurdle I fell at. I practically threw myself at it. And if I am to continue the ‘wet/dry’ analogy then it was surely the water jump. And I’m soaked.

Because once you’ve fallen you lie in the mud for a while. Or in this instance, you keep on drinking.  You have the six o’clock G&T on Saturday and Sunday as well. Then you take a bottle of wine round to your friends for dinner on Monday, have a pint in the pub on Tuesday, more wine on Wednesday, a ‘bit of a sesh’ on Thursday and before you know it it’s 5.45pm on Friday again and you can almost hear the ice cubes rattling in the glass.

So now it’s Tuesday. Not any old Tuesday but Shrove Tuesday. Which means that tomorrow is the beginning of Lent. Which is when we give stuff up.

So I get another chance.

Tomorrow. I start again tomorrow.

Right.

Pass the Gordons then, it’s almost 5.55pm.

One Day At A Time Sweet Sherry…

Bloody hell, here we are in February already! The final firework of New Year’s Eve only just seems to have fizzled out and we are into the second month of 2015.

So, what’s what with the usual ‘regime’ and ‘resolutions’ we inexplicably force ourselves into at this time of year? Inciting failure so early on. What is wrong with us?

This year I tried to be realistic. Not just silly like my usual New Year’s resolution of “I’m going to give up going to bed early, or I’m going to give up stroking the cat’s fur the wrong way or I’m going to give up having vegetables except at weekends…” No, this year I am being sensible.

So just as everyone is getting hammered to celebrate a successful ‘dry January’ I am embarking upon a ‘dry February’. I couldn’t do January. It’s too soon after Christmas and there’s still loads of booze in the house. Besides, I was going to Rehkya, Rekyya, Rekkjhav….Iceland. A gang of us were heading out to see the Northern Lights for a mates 50th birthday. There was no way I would spend that weekend sober. I mean, first I had to get through Duty Free. Then there would be all that lovely cold Icelandic beer. Pure Icelandic vodka. Flavoured vodka. White Russians. Liquorice Liquor. Hip flasks full of Cointreau. Yeah, that last one’s a bit weird but thats what we did. We also did Baileys, out of the bottle, on the beach. We did that too. Because we could. And of course, Brennivín. The national drink of Iceland. It’s essentially a schnapps made from potatoes and flavoured with caraway. It’s no mistake that it sounds a bit like Benolyn and is locally referred to as “Black Death”, which explains a lot. Icelanders never touch the stuff.

So there was just no point in giving up drinking for the first two weeks of January knowing that I would ‘blow it’ from the 15th onwards. No point at all. Even though I could have benefitted greatly just from that fortnight of not drinking. No point. I was going to Iceland and I was going to drink. Why set yourself up to fail? Of course, when I got back it would only be two weeks until the end of January so no point in starting now only to mess it up again….no, I’ll wait until February.

Now it’s February. Dry February. Although I’m struggling with that as a ‘label’. As an incentive. As a goal. I don’t want to just do ‘dry February’. I want a dryer life in general. I want to do ‘dry 2015’…but with a few slightly squelchy occasions along the way. Dry with scattered showers. The occasional messy downpour. What I’d love to master is the ability to just dip my toe in or get slightly damp without having to totally soak myself and stay positively wringing wet all night.

To just be able to have the occasional glass of wine. Maybe two. And then say, “no more for me thanks.” There are people that can do that. Just as someone is about to top them up they put their hand over their glass and say, “that’s plenty thanks.” I’ve seen them. How can I get to that point where I can self monitor? Self regulate. Self care. That point where just one little tipple doesn’t mean, “the flood gates are open guys, bring it on. Pour as much down my neck as I can possibly swallow, then just keep pouring. Ad-lib ’til fade.

See, in order to do that I think, I strongly do believe, that I have to stop drinking alcohol completely for….honestly…three months. Three months of nothing at all and then a slow reintroduction. Not, “wahay! I did it! Pop the magnum!” But a slow, “maybe I’ll have one glass of wine tonight. Maybe not.” Maybe even then I should avoid spirits, or beer, actually or wine, maybe I should just never drink again. But for now, I should just set myself the goal that I don’t drink today. Today I will not drink. Look at me, it’s already the 2nd February and not even a sip.

I’ve had a lucky start as I was at a Buddhist meeting on Sunday morning which always makes me feel very righteous and inspired and like I should behave myself. I even avoided the glass of ‘toast’ Prosecco, even though I had one shoved into my hand. I ‘pretended’ to sip it at the toast but DIDN’T!!! I didn’t actually have any! How good is that? I could have been led astray within the first few hours of my determination but I was stronger than that. I placed the still full glass back on the table in the knowledge that someone – someone representing the ‘old me’ – would be sure to mine-sweep it up later, and turned my attention to some lovely crispy carrots and hummus. Yum.

Then, last night I went to a bar. A bar. A bar that sells drinks. It has drinks of every description all on display for you to pick and choose from, each of them with their attractive, colourful, intricate labels all lined up like so many jars of sweeties at the ‘Pick ’n’ Mix’ counter at Woolworth’s. Ah, how I would lament the disappearance of the ‘Pick ’n’ Mix’ counter at Woolworth’s if I hadn’t replaced buying sweets with drinking in bars. Bars where the booze calls out to me, “Pick me…” “Mmmm, I’m yummy…” “I can make you feel good….” Obviously, I’d never drink that last one because that’s just creepy, but there they are nonetheless – teasing and taunting from their little optic display like a row of delicious can-can dancers. We are here. We are available. Come on in. But I didn’t. I had a cup of tea and a ginger beer.

That’s the trick I think. To become a connoisseur of soft drinks. To grow to love the taste of ginger beer and lime and soda and mmm, sparkling water. Yum. Oooo, ice and a slice? Don’t mind if I do. That’s the secret. Dress it up. Make it feel special. Like a treat. Then try to sit back and enjoy it without wondering why it has no ‘kick’ and doesn’t taste as good as your usual tipple.

So, soft drink suggestions please. Alcohol replacements. Mocktails. (What’s the point??) Get me through February at least….

Women IN Comedy Festival

There isn’t really any way to explain the feeling of standing against the wall in a dressing room while stage staff scramble around you looking for more chairs to seat your audience. I had thought I might attract an audience of twelve, maybe sixteen people to my gig at the Women In Comedy Festival. And I would have been happy with that. When I walked out onto the stage at The Kings Arms to about 45 people squidged into the room my heart beat a little faster. I mean, I’ve played to bigger audiences before but this was just so…unexpected. And so lovely. And we had a full hour to enjoy ourselves. Ah, the luxury.
I hadn’t done a full hours show since Edinburgh in 2012 and being on the SAGS tour meant that I hadn’t really had time to rehearse my own show so it seriously felt like I was just going to stand in front of a room full of people and, well, chat about stuff. I do have some material, don’t get me wrong – I’ve got hours and hours of material. I just didn’t know which bits I was going to say in what order! The wonderful BSL Interpreter Katie Fenwick had committed to interpreting the show which also somehow made me feel like I shouldn’t say anything too stupid!
That didn’t seem to stop me though. In fact having Katie on stage with me, and consequently Little Ali from the SAGS who held up cards displaying the lyrics to my songs gave the whole experience a completely different dynamic and led to the most unique performance I have ever enjoyed the good fortune to be part of.
The audience were splendidly rowdy for 6.30pm in the afternoon. I wondered if they had started drinking early as the heckling and joining in became more frequent. Lovely familiar faces like my good old mate Becky who was up from London; Rose, who can remember me performing at ‘A Truly Western Experience’ sometime last century; Annie and Michelle – my ‘forces sweethearts’; brand new mates Sam and Harriet who I met (along with Katie) at this year’s WIT festival and even newer fans that had come to support me having seen previous gigs on the Spreading The Love tour. A special mention goes to Pammie Clinton who came to more gigs than I could count and paid decent money for my old SAGS shirt which meant that I could pay Katie for her trouble and Pammie got a nice new tent.
The Women In Comedy Festival is a truly brilliant festival run by the extremely dedicated and hard working Hazel O’Keefe who also runs Laughing Cows amongst other things. Hazel is great and I missed performing at the inaugural festival last year so it was a real treat for me to be included in this year’s programme. Here’s hoping I’ll be there next year and for many years to come and well done Hazel for putting such a brill fest together.
If I had to give the show a title I think I would have to call it “In conversation with….” because that is how it felt. The audience were so warm and up for it that it really did feel like we were all just having a chat. I told a few gags and they laughed in the right places; I played a couple of songs and they all sang along; I told a few stories – some that I’ve never told before – some that I’ll never tell again – and as I left the stage, strewn with sheets of A4 card printed with song lyrics and cables and empty beer glasses to the sound of cheering and clapping and the sight of my beautiful audience all smiling and waving their hands in a mass of BSL applause I knew that this had most definitely been a one off. A dream gig. A truly wonderful experience.

it ain’t over til it’s over

As a child I was always very reluctant to allow things to come to an end. Whether it be a game, a gathering or a galaxy counter. I was often the first to arrive at a party (that’s a party – not a “play-date”) and invariably, the last to leave. I was the one left behind, aimlessly swinging my racket on the tennis court when everyone else had gone home for their tea. I was the one still chatting and giggling to the friend I had over to stay the night (that’s “having a friend over to stay the night” – not a “sleepover” ) when they had long been asleep.

Anyone who has ever been to a games evening at my house will know that little has changed. Although I no longer sob when guests call a taxi or attempt to get their coats – I stopped doing that once I turned forty – there is still a remaining element of not wanting the fun to end.

I think that’s why I love September. September is like the “it’s not all over” month of relief and optimism. It’s the month when just as everyone is commenting that “it’s turned a bit chilly”, the sun will burst out from behind the clouds and give us three consecutive days of scorching heat. It’s the month when we used to drag ourselves back to school after a long lazy summer, but lo: in short sleeved shirts and with light enough to still go out to play after tea. It’s the month that can frighten us to death with a dramatic, crashing thunderstorm that will provide a drenching downpour of rain warm enough to dance naked under.

That’s what we do in September. We continue to enjoy gentle games of tennis stretching from the warm afternoon into the long evening. We go ahead with our plans to dig all day at the allotment and round it off with a G&T and a few sausages on the barby. We camp – with hope. We go surfing, we fly kites, we light fires, we sit out to enjoy the stars. We dance for hours, naked in the rain.

When I say “we”, well, it was just me. And when I say “for hours”, it was just a few moments really. My next door neighbour’s son has an air rifle so I can’t be too careful.

The point is, I hate to be told the summer is over and September has a beautiful knack of saying it isn’t so. Summer isn’t over just because there’s a chill in the air. Summer isn’t over just because the schools have gone back. Summer isn’t over just because it’s pissing down. In the words of the awesome Deacon Blue…”You know the danger in believing that the summer’s gone…” I don’t actually know the danger but the words resonated with me so deeply that I had them airbrushed onto a vest top on Daytona Beach in 1989.

In America they have labor day. (That’s labor day – not labour day) Labor day falls on the first Monday in September and traditionally marks the end of the summer. That’s it. Done and dusted. Finished. No more barbeques. No more picnics. No more outdoor barn dances with grandpa on the fiddle in a white picket fenced garden with bunting and cake decorating competitions and homemade lemonade. No more. That’s it. Stop it now.

Hell, it’s so ‘not summer anymore’ that you can’t even wear white clothes after labor day. It’s against US law. You’ll be featured in the National Enquirer as a major fashion faux pas. I lived in New York for a while and witnessed the strict adherence to this rule aghast with disappointment and indignation. Not only were they depriving themselves of some of the best days of summer lovin’, but they were denying me them too.

As my role in New York at the time was as a struggling, angst-ridden singer/songwriter playing the bars on Bleaker Street, I wrote about it thus:

Here we are, it’s the first of September
So they say, summer is over.
I call my brother. We laugh together and he says:
“What if it’s really nice weather?”

Well i just might put on my white dress today
I would like things to be the way they were yesterday
Just that it rained
On labor day
doesn’t mean to say
summer is over…

Ah, it still makes me chuckle to think that I might wear a white dress after labor day. It makes me laugh to think that I might wear a white dress after the age of three to be fair.

This year, British Summertime ends on October 26th. Now that’s a bit more like it. That makes sense. It’s getting all fresh and crisp and the trees are turning and the air smells of woodsmoke and yes, we’re ready for Autumn.

Except my mum. She hates it when the clocks go back. “It’s dark when I get up and dark when I go to bed.” Rather than suggest she goes and lives in the land of the midnight sun, I call her as the clocks change to cheer her up with enthusiastic suggestions of all the delights winter brings us. Crisp, bright, clear days; warm, snuggly evenings; Jack Frost nipping at your nose. By February she’s usually buggered off to Southern Spain with Dad in the motorhome.

But it’s in my diary to call her anyway. And by then I too shall be ready to accept the new season. It’ll be easier for me this year. I’ll be calling from the private seclusion and relaxation of the poolside of my apartment in the avocado, mango and bamboo groves of the Andalucian Mountains. I’ll be on my summer holiday.

spreading the love

So, here we are. The first night of my tour. I’ve packed my outfit. I’ve packed my guitar (new strings), my microphone and a roll of gaffa tape. Old habits die hard.

Since I was 24 I’ve been periodically packing to go on tour. I’ve tour managed, company managed and stage managed; I’ve drawn up lighting plans and sewn drapes; I’ve positioned a piano and stuck marker tape onto just about every major stage in the UK. I even got to shake a maraca or two backstage.

I could write a book on the exploits I have got up to on tour with the likes of Fascinating Aida, Rhona Cameron, Sue Perkins, Punt and Dennis, Clare Summerskill, The Singalonga Sound Of Music and a random rock band from Reading. Maybe one day I will.

But right now, I am calling myself a taxi, throwing my guitar on my shoulder and heading out for the first night of my first tour as an actual performer.

I think I may actually have actual butterflies….

spreading the laugh

join me on sunday 8th june from 10am – 1pm for a one off humourology workshop as part of the crouch end festival…come, laugh, drink tea, eat biscuits and unlock your inner funny xx

HAHAposter

neweekend

So, Monday night is the new Saturday night and therefore Sunday is the new Friday. Or at least, it was this week. After a stonking night last night at the divine new ArtHouse in Crouch End which has finally opened with it’s funky upcycled stools, groovy hanging lights, highly fashionable shiny tiling and farrow and ball coloured walls. (not capital F or B)

With a proper painted stage framed with theatrical blacks; a full lighting rig and a working microphone it was a delight to perform to the wonderful SOLD OUT auditorium with it’s gorgeous old original shabby chic cinema seating occupied by the bottoms of delightfully enthusiastic and energetic comedy goers (and one or two very cool rock stars) all totally up for a top night out full of laughs, revelations, some possible over-sharing and a slab or two of delicious rhubarb cake. What’s not to love?

Nice work Tom Barrie (heart you); magnificently headlined by the irresistibly lovable Patrick Monahan who was joined on stage (and trust me, with those new fire regulation doors getting on stage was no mean feat) by the hilarious Tom Price and clever, sophisticated and slightly surreal character comedy from the bold and brassy Shirley and Shirley. Bloody brilliant.

Course, Sunday is all about the roastie. But at the Clissold Arms in Muswell Hill (see, I’m possibly overjoyed at these two new comedy nights not just because they are brilliant and on customarily un-busy nights of the week but because they are both walking distance from my house…) the comedy comes with a roast dinner for a tenner!!! Yes, a huge great plate of Sunday Roast before you take your seat in a bamboo encased tiki room; festooned with fairy lights; furnished with statuettes and random art from no century in particular and carpeted with astro turf.

Now the comedy night at the Clissold did something quite brave and daring this week. They put on an all male bill. Controversial. Would they all talk about their penises and masturbating? No. Very much not. They talked about being dads, and sharing baths, and going ski-ing. And they were bloody hilarious. After I’d finished harrumphing about the lack of a female comic on the bill I realised that my cheeks were aching from laughter.

It’s a winning night, MC’d by Mark Maier and we were lucky enough to share the evening in the company of Paul Tonkinson, Alan Francis and Luke Toulson. Favourites of mine and actually real boys. Blimey. What’s happening to me?

And it’s only Tuesday.

a bit like maxine

Of course on finally stammering out the words to my mum that I thought I might be “a bit like Maxine” I thought my message was clear. Maxine had come out as a lesbian to the whole family and was openly in a relationship with another woman.

My mum’s reaction though, was: “oh don’t be so silly.”

After all that? After weeks, months of planning when and how I was going to tell her, my mum’s sole retort is “don’t be so silly”?? After countless weekends of returning to my new girlfriend with my tail between my legs and the admission that I hadn’t come out, again. That there just hadn’t been the right moment. That she wouldn’t be coming to Sunday lunch anytime soon. That was all the riposte I got? “Oh, don’t be so silly.”?

Then I realised why.

Maxine was also a heroin addict.

I wouldn’t usually mention it. It’s long time ago now. Ten years ago to be exact. I know this because I just spent the day with Maxine, with her lovely girlfriend and with my auntie, celebrating the anniversary of the day that Maxine became sober. The day she became clean. The day, in her words, she “chose freedom and chose life.” Ten years ago. I was living in Camden at the time and we joked about the fact that last time we spent time together in London is when I visited her in prison.

“Yeah, and you didn’t even bring me any drugs,” she complained. I wasn’t even allowed to give her a pen or the mix tape I’d prepared for her incase I’d secreted some narcotic or other inside. Not a great time. But ten years later and here she was. Looking healthy and glowing and happier than ever. When I asked her what her secret was she told me that she finally decided to accept herself and love herself and that meant she didn’t need the drugs any more. She didn’t need to be someone else. She could just be herself.

Like I said. I wouldn’t usually mention it. It’s private. But I know Maxine won’t mind because she is a survivor. And because she’s posted it on facebook. Anyway, it also gives me the chance to mention how proud I am of her. What an inspiration she is. A brave, beautiful, strong and passionate woman with a soft, kind heart and a nerve of steel.

And while I joke and make futile attempts to popularise the euphemism “a bit like Maxine” to suggest that someone may be a lesbian, I would be proud and delighted to be, to any degree and under any classification, just a teeny “bit like Maxine”.

new-phemism

Growing up I always suspected my youngest cousin to be…to be….well, to be, er…you know…”on the other bus”. “Batting for the other team”. Or as a favourite comedienne of mine says, “she licks t’other side of t’stamp”. You know who you are Julie Jepson. But you’re right, it is a stupid expression because stamps do come already sticky these days.

Fact is. there isn’t really a good euphemism for someone being a lesbian. Not that I know of. So, I’ve decided to create my own, fabulous, new saying – based on my own coming out story. Like I said, I had always suspected my cousin, Maxine was probably a lesbian. She was (and still is) a couple of years younger than me so when she came to visit she was frequently the unfortunate recipient of my expeditiously outgrown hand-me-downs. These were usually garments that my older brother had already inhabited before handing them down to me so were often worn and torn at the bum and knees; with ripped belt loops and missing buttons; scuffed trainers with odd laces, and jumpers with patches on the elbows. That was all fine though. Maxine and I both had an unusually keen fancy for boy’s clothes. And some items had been kicking around so long they were enjoying a return to fashion. It was all fine.

Until the day I finally outgrew my pink ballet cardigan. Oh the joy I felt at never having to wrap it’s pink satin ribbons around my rapidly expanding waist ever again. Oh how elated I was to see it folded amongst the beige, threadbare, flared cords and the patterned wing-collared shirts on the pile of clothes reserved for my cousins.  It was a sight that bordered on consolation for the sad fact that I had also outgrown the petrol blue and white striped adidas trainers that had been pinching my toes all summer.

As I punched the air with my chubby little fist at the removal of the one remaining item of pink clothing from my wardrobe, a five year old Maxine stood immobilised; her face frozen into an expression that exclaimed “When the fuck am I ever going to have the inclination to wear that?”

See. Lesbian. I knew it.

Having detected it at such an early age the similarities in our sexuality remained unacknowledged until well into our teens. As our older cousins got engaged and married, Maxine and I either attended such family affairs solo or accompanied by a ‘friend’ in sensible shoes and a lumberjack shirt.

Once I was absolutely sure that Maxine was indeed “licking t’other side of t’stamp” (It was actually something else I caught her licking in the toilets of a gay bar under the promenade in Brighton, but we don’t talk about that) I realised that as the older cousin I had a mission to perform. It was up to me to pave the way. There was a subject that demanded broaching and I was the elder. I had to be a role model. The pioneer of the family. I had a responsibility. A duty. An accountability. It was up to me to act.

So I waited for Maxine to come out and then when the family didn’t disown her I did the same. Well, within a decade anyway.

I was folding laundry with my mum and I had decided this was the perfect moment.

“Mum?”

“Yes?”

“Er, I think….I think…er, I think I might be…” Oh no. I’d started. I’d got this far but there wasn’t a ‘nice’ way to say it. I couldn’t use the word lesbian in front of my mum. Or say the word ‘gay’. What could I say? How could I say it?

“You might be what, love?” mum asked as she balled a pair of socks.

“I think I might be…a bit like Maxine.”