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two hilarious chapters from my new book..

Life Begins At Fifty - The Book
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As I walked into the kitchen at some unearthly hour on the night of my daughter Rachel’s wedding, en route to bed, I encountered Ross, one of Rachel’s oldest friends, who used to live opposite us.

‘Helen, I need to ring Gail.’

‘Hmm, I’m not sure your mum would be too pleased if you rang her at this time of the morning, Ross,’ I giggled.

‘It’ll be fine, fine, fine.  Ooooh, I’ve got no battery.  Have you got a plug?’

I got to bed at about 3ish.  At about 3.05am I heard a familiar woooh, woooh!  Oh for heaven’s sake!  As I walked around the garden in my dressing gown I remember thinking, ‘Am I the only one who ever thinks of taking Pippy out for a poo?’   As I came back in and trundled up the stairs, I was met by Ross in his underpants.

‘Night, Ross.’

‘Night, Helen.’

I was pounced on at about 9.30 am the next morning by my eldest daughter, Nicola.



‘The last thing I remember is you saying, “Do not have another drink,”’ she laughed.

‘I said it about three times…and every time I did you waltzed off with another half pint of red wine, you great nana.’

By 11.00am there was about nine of us sitting round the kitchen table, eating bacon sandwiches and laughing hysterically about the drunken antics of the night before.   Half an hour later, Nick, my ex-husband,  his wife and her friend called round, all looking as fresh as daisies.  At the end of the dirt track leading to my house, we’d put a bride and groom scarecrow, and suffice to say, in my tatty turquoise dressing gown with my hair sticking up like a brillo pad, I definitely looked like the dishevelled bride.  Greeeaaat!

At 1.00pm we had to make ourselves look rather more presentable as people were calling in to collect cars, and lots of Kalumn (the groom)’s  friends  and relatives had come from far and wide, so we’d asked them if they’d like to stop by for some drinks and nibbles.  What a laugh we had!  Kalumn’s mum, Carol, and her friend, Paula, had gone back to Brompton to pick up some keys…and had to make the journey twice as the first time around they’d forgotten to actually pick the keys up –   definitely the sort of thing that I do all the time.

One of Kalumn’s best men had a deep gash in his buttock, he knew not why.  Very shy at first, all of a sudden, whenever anyone offered words of advice (like, ‘Go to A and E, pronto!’) he dropped his trousers for further inspection and showed his bum to the world, whereupon various people muttered something along the lines of, ‘Urgh, I can get my finger in it.’   I nearly spat my drink out!

I think it summed up the day perfectly when I took some photos of Kalumn and his mates on a rattan settee…and completely cut out Kalumn and his friend standing behind it.  It was the sort of day that just disappeared in a whirl of dwinkies, quiche, pies, cheese and pickle, with some people arriving as others disappeared.   The bubbles were obviously getting to me, as I reckoned it was a really good idea to cut around the circumference of the biggest wedding cake at the bottom of the three tiers and dish the slices out to all and sundry.  A little while later, the ‘leaning tower of Pisa’ collapsed.  Seriously, if I had brains I’d be dangerous!!!

As the last ones left at about 7.30 pm we were just about dropping off our perch…then we  realised that we needed to empty the marquee (of booze, glasses, flowers, mirrors, décor, etc., etc.) and the fridge trailer, which still had lager, white wine and sparkly in it, as people were coming to whisk them away the next day.  Ooooh noooo!  How come people work on a Bank Holiday Monday?  Maaaaad!  Still, as I reminded Rachel, when we were trailing to and fro, the next day would be an absolute doddle!

Monday was sheer heaven!  Mr and Mrs H had a lie in, a lazy breakfast and spent the whole day just chilling whilst opening cards and presents, and taking a sneaky peek at lots of brilliant photos that guests had taken.  Perfect!  The day after, I dropped them off at the train station en route to Manchester Airport, where they were off to the Maldives and Dubai.  Lucky devils!

For my part, I thought the next few days would be quite, well, serene.  Fat chance!  One by one, people came to pick up the marquee (which took two days), the fridge trailer, the porta-loos, the bar, the beer kegs, the florist’s candelabras, cutlery, plates and glasses.   Nicola’s boyfriend, Damo, who had been absolutely indispensable on the run up to the wedding, creating stone steps at the front and back of the house, making ‘tent guys’ to keep the archway up, mowing the grass verges, replacing rotten wood above the bay windows and even putting a new battery in my conked out car, came into his own yet again.  He very kindly helped me to take back lots of huge planters that friends had let me have for the big day.   What a star he was!   He didn’t even complain when one planter keeled over and left a mound of soil in the middle of his pristeen van, bless him.

I also had to traipse to various different supermarkets to take back the left over booze.   In, out, in, out, heave!  In, out, in, out, heave!  And so it went on.   I then realised that the lawn I’d manically mowed and the flowers I’d planted row after row (and covered in rabbit netting until the wedding day to stop them nibbling them) still needed tending …dead heading, dead heading, dead heading.  Oh Lordy!

I went along to my local bank to withdraw some money to pay for this and that, which seemed to add up to rather a lot.

‘Ooh, what are you having done?’ exclaimed the lady behind the counter, who, coincidentally, I’ve known for years.

The first thing that sprang to mind was, ‘Do I look as if I need something doing?’

I tried to keep a straight face as I replied, ‘Nooo, I’m not having anything done.  My daughter got married.’

The look on her face was priceless!   It was a bit like one of those moments when you ask a supposedly pregnant woman when her baby is due and she tells you she’s already had it.  She  looked absolutely mortified and did a great deal of coughing and spluttering, whereas I thought it was the funniest thing I’d heard in a long time.

After a few days, I started noticing that my back was not as it should be.  I’ve long had a funny coccyx after falling onto icy ground in my twenties, but when I went to my lovely physio last week, she noted that it seemed ‘a bit pronounced’ after my latest stint, ie: falling backwards onto my bum whilst dancing with one of the best men.     So I rang Chris, a farmer who then trained to be a chiropractor.  When I was in my twenties, I was dressed as Nora Batty, complete with blonde wig and crinkly tights, for the infamous Boat Party, an annual fancy dress event on a ferry in the middle of Lake Ullswater.  Chris was dressed as the Virgin Mary with a bump as the theme that year was ‘bad taste’…very bad taste indeedy!   And, to cut a long story short, we were rocking and rolling on the deck of the ferry, when he let go of my arm, I fell backwards over and hit the deck – literally – and broke my shoulder.  Soooo, imagine his glee when I rang him this morning and said, ‘Erm you’re not going to believe this but I was rocking and rolling with this guy at Rachel’s wedding and I fell backwards over…..’  Ooh, it’s a funny old life, isn’t it?

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