Today I’m delighted to welcome my friend and late night Twitter buddy Gina Kirkham. If it’s Gina that’s answered the questions we’re probably safe, but if her alter-ego Mavis has turned up – anything can happen!
Gina was born during the not-so-swinging 50’s to a mum who frequently abandoned her in a pram outside Woolworths and a dad who, after two pints of beer, could play a mean Boogie Woogie on the piano in the front room of their 3-bed semi on the Wirral. Being the less adventurous of three children, she remains there to this day – apart from a long weekend in Bognor Regis in 1982.
Her teenage years were filled with angst, a CSE in Arithmetic, pimples, PLJ juice, Barry White and rather large knickers. Marriage and motherhood ensued, quickly followed by divorce in her early thirties and a desperate need for a career and some form of financial support for herself and her daughter. Trundling a bicycle along a leafy path one wintry day, a lifelong passion to be a police officer gave her simultaneously an epiphany and fond memories of her favourite author Enid Blyton and moments of solving mysteries.
And thus began an enjoyable and fulfilling career with Merseyside Police.
On reaching an age most women lie about, she quickly adapted to retirement by utilising her policing skills to chase after two granddaughters, two dogs and one previously used, but still in excellent condition, husband. Having said goodbye to what had been a huge part of her life, she suddenly had another wonderful epiphany. This time it was to put pen to paper to write a book based on her experiences as a police officer.
Lying in bed one night, staring at the ceiling and contemplating life as she knew it, Gina’s alter-ego, Mavis Upton was born, ready to star in a humorous and sometimes poignant look at the life, loves and career of an everyday girl who one day followed a dream and embarked upon a search for the missing piece of her childhood.
So let’s find out what Gina thinks :-
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Moon River. My Dad was an amazing pianist and he used to play this for me all the time. It conjures up my happy childhood.
Time in a Bottle – Jim Croche. Although I love this song, it also fills me with so much sadness. It reminds me of my mum. When she was in the final stages of terminal cancer and couldn’t sleep, we would stay up all night talking, putting the world, and her own world to rights. She wanted more time to be able to do all the things she had put off to ‘another day’. We always think there will be time for those things, we procrastinate and hope for tomorrow. Sometimes that tomorrow is not promised or destined to be. I still wish I could have grabbed all the time in the world to bottle and give it to her, just to keep her with me just that little bit longer.
Smile – Nat King Cole. I think this song sums me up perfectly. I have always been able to find the ability, no matter how hard things are for me, to be able to smile. My smile sometimes belies what my heart is feeling. My mum was a huge believer in smiling your troubles away.
You’re the First, the Last, My Everything – Barry White. I fell in love for the first time to this track when I was fourteen. We kissed in the back jigger near his house, which although terribly exciting, resulted in me rushing to the local chemists to frantically thumb through an information booklet whilst hiding behind the extra-large incontinence pants and castor oil. By paragraph 3, I was relieved to find that swapping spit couldn’t make me pregnant or give me athletes foot or a hairy tongue. I did notice however that I had developed hairy legs but this may have been just an unlucky coincidence.
Have I told you lately that I love you – Van Morrison. This has a very special place in my heart as it’s the song that my hubby and I fell in love to. Anyone who knows John, knows that he doesn’t dance, but in the course of wooing me, he managed to force himself to shuffle around the dance floor several times whilst dragging me with him. I don’t think his feet have touched a disco floor since!
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
My Spanx ‘squish-it-all-in’ pants have got to be top of my list, they have never let me down. Actually, I’ve just remembered, that’s a little bit untrue. Whilst at a friend’s wedding, two pints of orange juice, three wines and a Gin & Tonic meant a quick extraction was required. Unfortunately, excessive perspiration after dancing The Time Warp meant they’d stuck fast and wouldn’t roll down leaving me jiggling for dear life in the toilet cubicle. In sheer desperation, I had to borrow a pair of scissors from the barman to cut them off. I spent the rest of the night going commando with a pair of shredded Spanx shoved in my handbag.
My mascara comes a very close second followed by my lipstick. I’ve instructed my hubby that should I unexpectedly expire during the night, he is to apply two coats to both top and bottom lashes and a slick of lippy before the undertakers arrive to take me away.
My books, I just couldn’t imagine my life without words and the magic of escapism they bring and finally…
My garden. I love gardening, planting something so small and watching it grow into something so beautiful along with the wildlife it attracts, is wonderful. I’ve even got a family of mice living in the sandstone walls by the waterfall. My books go hand in hand with my garden. It’s the perfect place to read…. when it’s not raining!
Invisible Bra Straps. These amazing creations allow me to wear an array of off the shoulder/strappy tops without showing the world the grey, frayed straps of my usual bra. Unfortunately what they don’t tell you in the advertising blurb is that when the plastic straps warm up from the heat of your skin, they stretch.
I start the day with norks at a level any 20-year old would be proud of but four hours later they’re splayed out over my desk completely obscuring the space bar on my keyboard or leisurely chaffing my kneecaps as I stroll to the coffee machine for a latte. Still couldn’t live without them though!
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Gosh, that’s a difficult one. There are so many things I wish I could have approached with an older head.
Never be defined by other people’s perceptions and expectations of you. I have spent my whole life feeling I was never quite good enough, which subsequently made me constantly seek approval from everyone else, rather than be happy in my own skin with my own achievements. Even to this day, and I’m fast approaching my 60th year, I still seek validation and worth from others.
Smoking!! I would definitely smack my younger self over the back of the head with Tolstoy’s War and Peace just as I was about to take my first puff on a cigarette. After 35 years of being a smoker, I finally gave up nine years ago.
It’s okay to be different. It would be a very boring world if we were all the same, I think our differences should be happily celebrated. I would tell the younger me to stop trying to be something or someone I wasn’t, just to fit in.
Travel the world. I would pack my younger self’s bags and send her off on an adventure rather than allow her to spend her youth being comfortable & safe at home.
Put your Diddybooby Fund in a high interest bank account rather than a Bell’s Whisky Bottle!
I know it’s a standing joke with my book character, Mavis, who has ‘humongous nellies’ but it is one trait that we both share. I had the misfortune to sprout them at the age of eleven and they’ve been the bane of my life ever since. I started saving at the age of 18 for a reduction, thinking it would be the answer to my prayers. I had happy visions of running to Sainsbury’s without giving myself two black eyes and sore kneecaps and not knocking several tubs of yoghurt off the shelf when reaching for the margarine in the chiller section.
Unfortunately, by the time I’d saved enough in my various booze bottles in the wardrobe, the price had gone up. In a fit of pique, I spent the money on a cheap holiday, and to this day I’ve still got humongous nellies, albeit they are considerably lower than they were in 1978 whilst bouncing across the sands in Ibiza.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I have a terrible fear of heights which I discovered whilst I was halfway across Blackpool Pier. I suddenly realised I could see through the slats in the boardwalk and became frozen to the spot. Two hours later I was eventually brought back to concrete by wheelchair, after my rescuers had dumped some poor Octogenarian out of it and onto a nearby bench to accommodate me. To this day I still can’t climb metal grated steps/stairs or gantries without freezing like a myotonic goat.
I can’t ride a bicycle without falling off if it hasn’t got a set of stabilisers. I had a three-wheeler once with a bin on the back, I was okay riding that until I smashed into a brick wall at the end of the road and swallowed the elastic hairband I was chewing at the time. Two weeks waiting for it to reappear traumatised me that much it put me of bikes for life.
I’m incredibly self-conscious and hate having my photograph taken. The antics I got up to trying to get one for my book cover was hilarious. I even ended up at one point sitting on the toilet with the ambient light behind me. I still looked dreadful!
I’m addicted to Lions Licorice Gums. Home Bargains have them for 39p a pack, I’m in seventh heaven but frequently do regret the side effects of eating four bags in one sitting!
I have a long term joint disease which causes varying degrees of pain for me every day. I take a drug called Leflunomide which bans the partaking of alcohol. I sometimes conveniently forget this fact when offered a glass of wine and I’ve been known to suffer complete amnesia when shown a bottle of Gin!
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
Go to Venice and Florence
Visit Port Isaac where Doc Martin is filmed
Take my daughter and Granddaughters to Disneyland Paris
Take up Yoga
To be carefree and confident enough to wear my hair down for the first time in forty years (now that would surprise my hubby!)
As ever Gina, you never fail to make me smile. Thanks so much for taking part and good shout with ‘Time in a Bottle’ it’s a favourite of mine too.
o – 0 – o
If Gina’s approach to life has entertained you, I suggest you meet up with her alter-ego Mavis Upton as soon as possible. My review is in the pipeline.
Meet Mavis Upton.
As mummy to 7-year old Ella, surrogate to far too many pets and with a failed marriage under her belt, Mavis knows she needs to make some life-changing decisions. It’s time to strike out into the world, to stand on her own two feet … to pursue a lifelong ambition to become a Police Officer.
I mean, what could go wrong?
Supported by her quirky, malapropism-suffering mum, Mavis throws herself headlong into a world of uncertainty, self-discovery, fearless escapades, laughter and extra-large knickers. And using her newly discovered investigative skills, she reluctantly embarks on a search to find her errant dad who was last seen years before, making off with her mum’s much needed coupon for a fabulous foam cup bra all the way from America. Follow Mavis as she tackles everything life can throw at her, and revel in Gina Kirkham’s humorous, poignant and moving story of an everyday girl who one day followed a dream.