Monday, 27 May 2013


Addendum to Zebra

I realised that I am old enough to go through the alphabet and have a story for every letter!

So here’s my life condensed into
26 chapters.

No animals were injured during the writing of these stories.

Nonny James

PS  When you get to the end of the page click Older Entries to continue!
PPS  Would really welcome comments/critisisms

A is for Addendum

A is for Addendum

I only put that as a heading to show off!  I’d love to learn Latin and British Sign Language before I die, but the chances of the former are unlikely.  Well, to be honest, to say ‘unlikely’ is somewhat unrealistic.  My ageing brain really isn’t up to it.  I’ve got to that stage in life when I have trouble recalling English words. Anyway.  Bear with me.  You have to read the boring bit first.  To set the scene, some results from my research :-

The Appendix:

Location:  Attached to the first part of your large intestine. 
Description: A narrow, muscular, worm-like pouch, usually around nine centimetres long. 
Function: Unknown.
     Evidence suggests that our evolutionary ancestors used their appendixes to digest tough food like tree bark, but we don’t use ours in digestion now. Some scientists believe that the appendix will disappear from the human body.
     The appendix is rich in infection-fighting lymphoid cells, suggesting that it might play a role in the immune system.  Whether the appendix has a function or not, it can be removed without any ill effects.

My comments on the above:-
1. How long is nine centimetres?
2. If the function is unknown then why have we got one?
3. I’m not that bothered about eating tree bark.
4. So it may disappear from the human body? Well I do wonder whether legs will disappear from the human body when you look at today’s children.  They don’t seem to walk anywhere.
5. I do worry about the infection-fighting lymphoid cells bit as I would appear to not have anything to fight them with now?  But I am re-assured with the bit that says it can be removed without any ill effects.

And so to the story.

I was 13 and the end of term exams were looming.  I just didn’t fancy it, so I came up with the idea of having a ‘sickie’ – just for a few crucial days.  For my project to succeed, I embarked upon some serious research that would assure a believable and semi-serious ailment.
     My grandfather lived with us and he had this weighty tome in his lounge called something like ‘The Doctor’s Book’.  Marvellous.  In a rare ‘home alone’ moment I opened the pages at ‘A’.   I flirted with the idea of having Amnesia but decided that Appendicitis would be easier to pull off.  My genetic credentials were perfect - Father a Research Scientist - Mother a thespian of note.
     My performance was awesome and, as it turned out, rather too believable.
     The doctor was called and I described my well-rehearsed symptoms.  My mother and the doctor left my bedroom and I could hear them chatting in hushed tones outside.  The next bit went rather quickly and resulted in mixed feelings.  I was pleased with my performance and really chuffed that I had succeeded in being diagnosed as ‘poorly’ (far too poorly for end of term exams. Result!)  However, I somehow ended up in hospital awaiting an operation to remove my perfectly healthy appendix.  I remember clutching the nurse who came to give me my pre-med and blurting out the truth.  She ignored me and put my panic down to being nervous about the operation.  She didn’t believe me!  How ironic!  Think about it.
     So that’s how I became Sans Addendum.  Yes I know that’s French and Latin in the same sentence, thank you very much.

     I just hope I never develop a taste for tree bark.

B is for Bacchus and Bread

B is for Bacchus

He’s the God of Wine.  I need say no more!

B is for Bread

It sums up my life wonderfully – the whole comedy and tragedy thing.  You know – the two masks.
     Listen to most comedians/funny people/those who make people laugh/stand-ups/etc., and the majority have a dark side. These days, a lot of them are classified as bi-polar.  Oh the wonders of modern science. There are generations of people who thought they were thick, and had been labelled as such. Then someone discovered dyslexia. Manic depressives are, I guess, still manic depressives.  I don’t think I am.  I am just extremely mercurial.  I fantasise about being bi-polar, but deep down in my heart I know that I’m just not clever enough!    People like Stephen Fry are bi-polar.  I rest my case.
     Anyway.  The Bread Incident.  I was about 11 years old.  We used to have the most wonderful bread from a baker in the local village.  One of my favourites was a cottage loaf.  It looked like the head of an elderly, well-bred woman  - her hair brushed up, and then a wholesome bun on the top.  The smell of the fresh bread was intoxicating.  I remember one day succumbing to the aroma and I pulled off a small section of the crust on the ‘bun’ bit and ate it.  A few hours later, my Jekyll and Hyde father (who was being the bad one at the time) summoned me to the kitchen.  I could tell he was being the bad one from the tone and timbre of his voice, and the fact that he just shouted ‘Rosalind’.  He only ever called me Rosalind when he was in a bad mood and I was going to be punished.  I’ve been called by my nickname, Nonny, since birth.
     “Rosalind – have you STOLEN some of this bread?”
     He had an issue about things being STOLEN and people telling LIES.  Gosh, anyone would have thought I had committed a heinous crime.  We’re talking about a minute piece of irresistible crust here!  Heaven knows what made me say it, but I said “No”.
     The inquisition started.  There was always an inquisition when he was in a bad mood – a sort of court case where he was the flamboyant and frightening lawyer who always got the defendant in the dock in such a state that they pleaded guilty whether they were guilty or not.  I came up with ridiculous things like “It must have been a mouse”.
     There was no way I was going to win.  I didn’t.  I was found guilty of this dreadful crime and sent to my room.  He followed me up and sat on my bed.  I knew what was coming.  I had to pull my knickers down and lie across his lap whilst he beat my buttocks with his hand.  He only once used a belt, but he didn’t need to really.  His hand hurt a LOT and I could never sit down for a couple of days.
     Beatings were always the same.  If I told the truth, then I would only get one beating.  If I told a lie, then I’d get two.  Looking back on it, I think this is why, to this day, I have trouble with lying.  I am just incapable of doing it and have a passionate dislike of people who do tell lies.
     So, I had told a lie and I was up for two beatings.  But this time it was different.  Something inside me decided that this was the day when he wasn’t going to win.  He always stopped when I cried and screamed a lot.  Today I was not going to scream or cry.  The pain of the first beating was bad.
     “That’s for stealing the crust,” he said, “And this is for telling a lie,” and the second beating started.  I remember biting my lip so hard that it broke the skin.  I could taste the blood in my mouth.  I have a scar on my upper lip to this day as evidence of that event from decades ago.  It seemed to go on and on and on but I didn’t make a sound.
     He appeared to go through a period of frustration at my silence and then even he knew that what he was doing was wrong – and he stopped.  He threw me a cruel glance and just walked out of the room and back downstairs.

     My bottom really hurt but, bloody hell, the feeling of victory was absolutely wonderful!

C is for Caesarean and Clown

C is for Caesarean Support

The strength of The Pill in the 70s was enough to stop a full-grown elephant from conceiving.  I think a lot of women probably found it hard to get pregnant after a few years on it.  I certainly did.  I remember the excitement of coming off it and thinking ‘right then – this is it – I’m going to make a baby’.  I didn’t the first month, or the second month.  After three months of this it became a paranoid painfulness.
     During my five years of unfruitful baby making, I always seemed to be walking past Mothercare, or bumping into random pregnant women, or listening to the excitement of friends who were pregnant. 
     I met my daughter’s father in January 1983.  We married in March 1983.  I was pregnant in April 1983.  Maybe the Divine Head of Baby Making disapproved of me becoming pregnant with my previous live-in boyfriend!  Who knows?
     I had a perfect pregnancy until the very end – and the very end was anything but perfect.  To cut a boring story short, I had wanted a natural birth.  I had two ‘due’ dates for 1984.  One was 2 January and the other was 5 January.  I’d had enough by 11 January.  I was absolutely enormous.  I got so fed up with the inevitable question ‘What are you hoping for?' that I started telling people that I was hoping for a digital piano but that I had a horrible feeling it was a baby – or possibly three, by the size of me.  Anyway, the hospital suggested that maybe I should be induced!
     An appointment was made for the 13th.  As this was a Friday, I declined and said I’d hang on a bit longer. I went in on Monday 16th.  I was attached to a drip (there has to be a joke here about my ex-husband) to beat my womb into submission. Nearly worked - but not quite.  ‘It’ - as I had been calling her for the past nine months, was eventually forcibly removed by caesarean section on Wednesday 18th, after two days of painful and non-productive contractions, and a fortnight later than her due date.  Her father was always late for everything.  No escaping the genes I guess!
     I was glad it was a girl.  I wanted a girl.  Well, to be honest, I would have preferred a digital piano, but a girl came a close second.  She was perfect and I felt so sorry for all the other mothers on the ward with their ugly babies that looked like recently skinned rabbits.  I almost felt guilty that I was the only Mother on the ward who had a beautiful baby!
     Now then.  Enter Fenella Fielding into the story.  Well not ACTUALLY Fenella Fielding, of course, but the likeness was amazing.  I’d had an operation to remove the eight and a half pound foetus so baths, showers and, more importantly, hair washing were all out of the question.  I had longish hair then and it hadn’t been washed for what seemed like an eternity.  It was lank and greasy. In fact, as maternity wards are so hot, and with the level of grease in my hair, I could have cracked an egg on the top of my head and produced a fried one in about five minutes.
     So there I am, looking greasy and tired with no make-up and clad in an appalling nightie that I had bought very quickly before my incarceration (I hadn’t possessed one until then) and Fenella Fielding arrives on the ward.
     I heard the sound of her high heels first, on the lino.  Black shiny shoes.  They matched her black shiny stockings and her black power dressing suit and her black Gucci handbag and her black, shiny and immaculate hair in a bob and her long, possibly false, black eyelashes.  Her bright red, shiny lipstick was like a beacon on a dark and damp autumnal evening.
     She seemed to be approaching my bed.  I was terrified and horrified at the same time. She was approaching my bed.  She arrived and sat on my bed.
     “Hello” she said, in a husky Fenella Fielding voice, “I’m from Caesarean Support.”
      If that wasn’t bad enough, she then leaned forward and nearly had one of my eyes out with her long eyelashes as she fluttered them. Her beautifully manicured hand with (yes you’ve guessed it) bright red fingernails, placed a Caesarean Support leaflet on my lap.
     I don’t like people I don’t know touching me -  so it wasn’t a good start for her really.  She then went on to refer to me as ‘A Mum.’  You lose your name, identity and status once you give birth, you know.  You just become ‘A Mum.’  She told me that a lot of ‘Mums’ feel inadequate when they haven’t been able to give birth PROPERLY.  I could feel those beginnings of lockjaw that set in when you are so annoyed that your jaw literally locks.  I didn’t say anything for a while.  I was too shocked. I think it was when she touched my leg and invaded my space AGAIN and told me that they were all ‘there for me’ that I told her, through painfully clenched teeth, that after what I’d been through for the past week, I couldn’t have cared which orifice my baby had come out of and that I had never, and would never, ever feel inadequate.  And my parting sentence, just for good measure, and against my inner good self’s wishes, was,
     “So why don’t you piss off and go and patronise someone else?”
     The staccato beat of her retreating stilettos seemed faster to me than their arrival.
     I never did contact Caesarean Support.

C is for Clown

And talking of giving birth, I don’t really write poetry, but this one forced its way out and took me surprise.

Fresh and alive
Once more
The encore
Of love’s performance
The romance
And all it brings
The flutter of heart
The pain of being apart
The stage is set
The truth I forget
For a while each day
And yet
When the curtain
Is down
The clown
Remains on the stage

D is for Dysfunctional

D is for Dysfunctional and Daddy

D is also for divorce!  And DNA.  And depression.  Oh I’m on a roll now!  Anyway, I would appear to have a somewhat dysfunctional lineage.  My maternal grandfather was divorced.  My mother was divorced.  My father divorced twice.  And me?  Well I seem to have managed three divorces!  I have one half-sister, three half-brothers, and a step-sister.  There are three suicides and two attempted suicides in my pedigree too!.
You’ve already read about my father in ‘The Bread Incident’, but here are the lyrics for a blues (appropriate) song I wrote about him.

I’m the daughter of a bad seed
From an evil man
I try to forget him
Whenever I can

The sins of generations
Have fallen on me
I’ve spent a lifetime searching
For some tranquillity

One day I’ll climb above
Feeling bad about me
One day I’ll find I’ve climbed
To the top of the tree

Then I will be the golden one
Then I will hear
Hey Girl – well done

I’m the black sheep
Of the family
Never got round to doing
What was expected of me

I’ve read about generations
‘Bout sins passed on an’ such
Then I think about my Daddy

And that don’t please me too much

E is for Enniskillen

E is for Enniskillen

People often think you are clever and talented if you’re a songwriter.  But that’s not the case.  I think songs have already been written and are just floating around in the ether, waiting for someone to pluck them from the sky.  And when something just blows your mind, or seriously affects you, the songs come very quickly and easily.  I remember the ‘Poppy Day’ bombing in 1987.  The things that really struck me were the final words of one of the victims, Marie, and the amazing heart of her father who was able to forgive.  The other thing was the poignancy of the fact that 11 people died at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  This song came very quickly indeed.

Cold November, the sky is touched with grey
Enniskillen on her Remembrance Day
The dawn seems so peaceful
In this land scarred by war
The soldiers in the graveyard
Cry ‘what did we die for?’
So what did they die for?

A breeze gently touches the street
Where later a village will meet – to remember
Oh, Enniskillen, the world cries with you

Footsteps echo in the chilly Irish air
The sounds of morning are waking everywhere
The children are laughing, together in their play
For them it’s just another pleasant day
Another Sunday

A broom sweeps the conflict aside
Today wear your poppy with pride.  Lest we forget.
Oh, Enniskillen, the world cries with you.

They were almost ready, a crowd had gathered there
Then, with no warning, an explosion pierced the air
And the soldiers cried ‘Why?’
As the dust choked the sky
‘Two wars of death and pain’
‘Did we all die in vain?’
Did they all die in vain?

‘Marie, are you alright’ her Father cries
‘Oh Daddy, I love you’ she sighs, as she fades away
Oh, Enniskillen, the world cries with you.

The eleventh hour.  The eleventh day.

The eleventh month. The eleventh life slips away.

F is for Feedback

F is for Feedback

It is a delight, and means so much to me, when clients take the trouble to say thank you.  Being old fashioned, I particularly enjoy hand written letters or cards!  The latest comment came via Twitter, but it made my day.  It was from the daughter of one of the people at a village hall gig.

‘Mum said you made people laugh that she had never heard laugh before, so thank you!’

I’m really not one to blow my own trumpet, but I’m very proud of the lovely client comments on my website (  Here are some favourites:-

‘Nonny James is an excellent all-round entertainer, raconteur, singer and musician’
Redditch Group of WI's

‘Hi Nonny, I don't normally do this but felt I should thank you so much for your entertainment. I had loads of people saying how much they enjoyed your time with us and nice comments about how friendly you are - even off stage! Many thanks again’
Audrey, Worcester

‘Dear Nonny, Just wanted to say thank you for such an excellent show you put on for us. There was something for everyone.  Always nice to see a professional at work – you got the audience eating out of your hand! Thanks again. You did us proud. God Bless You"
Rev'd Nick Wright, Inkberrow

And my absolute favourite…

‘She made me wet my knickers’
Lady in toilets at a gig in Cheshire

F is for Flowers

I don’t like cut flowers.  I like flowers growing in gardens or in hedgerows.  Just saying!