Making my peace with an old enemy

I went to see a film called Blinded By the Light on its opening night on Friday. I was keen to see it, as I like director Gurinder Chadha’s work, and really enjoyed the trailer (below).

It’s the story, set in 1987 in Luton, of a British Asian boy who grows up in conflict with his father. He wants to be a writer and finds solace in the music of Bruce Springsteen. If you’ve read my Duran Duran story, you’ll know that there are more than a few parallels between our lives.

It’s based on a true story: that of Sarfraz Manzoor. Who, you might ask, is Sarfraz Manzoor? Well, funnily enough, he’s a journalist who used to moan about me in his Guardian columns!

In 2009, Sarfraz blamed the Atheist Bus Campaign for making him feel sad about death:

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That same February, I wrote a very lighthearted column about Valentine’s Day for the Graun, suggesting that it wasn’t all bad being single. Sarfraz was not happy, and called me out by name.

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I didn’t really mind, though twice in two weeks was a bit much! But writers need stuff to write about, and I’m glad I was consistently giving him material.

Anyhow, I really enjoyed Blinded By the Light – it was very warmhearted and funny as well as poignant. And it’s weird thinking that this guy I’d pissed off with my columns and atheism had so much in common with me, and I never knew. We could have been friends, bonding over the way music can affect everything in your life and change it for the better, if you let it.

Do go and see the film if you can – it’s brilliant. But don’t just take my word for it – it has a score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Here’s Sarfraz with The Boss:

sarfraz

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The three weirdest things about my body

Tuesday’s blog post about my dream ankle boots made me think about my feet – so here are the three strangest things about my body. Get ready for some real weirdness…

3. Clown feet

I used to have the tiniest feet. My right foot was a size 3 and my left foot was a size 3 and a half, but I used to squash them into size 3 shoes, because it made them look cuter. Then, when I was modelling shoes for TopShop (a story for tomorrow’s blog), I would sneakily splay them out when getting measured, in order to model industry-standard size 4s. Anyhow, these were my feet:

My feet

They were so small and pretty with such high arches that, unknown to me, I was listed on a celebrity website for foot fetishists called Wikifeet! And one of the top Google searches under my name for a long time was ‘Ariane Sherine feet’.

Sadly my feet are not small and pretty any more. These days, I don’t like to draw attention to them.

Why?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I put on five stone. The extra weight I was carrying meant my feet swelled… to a size 7 and a half. A SIZE 7 AND A HALF! I would joke that this is more than double the length, but I think you know better.

Since then, my weight has yo-yoed up and down, and my feet have swelled and decreased along with it. I’ve never heard of this happening to anyone else. I’m currently a size 6, but chances are when I shrink, my feet will shrink along with me. If this sounds implausible, here are measurements of my flabby size 6 right foot today (weirdly, 23.5cm long, 23.5cm diameter at the widest part):

 [Big fat foot. I wouldn’t make it onto Wikifeet these days!]

[Yes, I do need to repaint my toenails. You’re quite right.]

Let’s see how long and wide my foot is after I lose another five stone. Hopefully not size 3, as I sold all my beautiful tiny size 3 shoes. (Though the proceeds went to charity, so at least someone benefited.)

Lesson: don’t put on loads of weight if you have nice feet.

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2. Ping pong ball in groin

Aged 17, I was doing a BTEC in Performing Arts (a very short-lived phase that lasted less than a term). I laughed too hard at a joke (probably my own, as they weren’t a funny bunch) and felt something pop out on the right side of my groin. After that, whenever I laughed or coughed, a ping pong ball-sized bulge appeared below my knicker line.

I went to the doctor and was referred to a consultant, who told me it was an ‘inguinal hernia’. Basically, a bit of my intestine had broken through the intestinal wall and was sticking out of the top of my lady garden. Nice!

I was going to have it treated but was too much of a wuss. I think it repaired itself eventually, as after about five years I couldn’t feel it anymore. If you were expecting Thai sex club connotations in this post, I can only apologise.

Lesson: never laugh too hard.

Hernia

1. Gill (for breathing underwater)

When I was a toddler, my mum noticed a lump on the right-hand side of my neck and took me to the doctor, thinking I had neck cancer. The doctor examined me and said ‘That’s not neck cancer – it’s a gill!’

‘A gill?!’ my mother asked, baffled.

‘Yes,’ came the reply, ‘a vestigial gill from the days when humans used to breathe underwater.’

My mum, you and everyone else could be forgiven for replying ‘WTAF?!’

When the delightful and charming kids at primary school asked what the lump was, and I replied ‘a gill’, they said they were going to hold me underwater and see if I could breathe through my gill.

These days, when anyone asks me about the lump (it’s not very noticeable and about the size of a lump of fudge), I tell them about the gill, then launch into The Temptations’ song: ‘Talkin’ bout my gill – my gill!’ 

And then I ask them if they want to feel the gill, and they invariably do. They feel it and then they go ‘ooh!’ in surprise at the squidgy lump between their fingers. My best friend described it as ‘very exciting’, but then he doesn’t get out much.

[The gill is the slightly raised discoloured bit below the mole.]

When I was in my teens, a GP asked if I wanted to have the gill removed, but I said no – because why have surgery when there’s no need? It doesn’t bother me. I’ve never found out why the lump is there, but the original doctor’s ‘gill’ explanation isn’t substantiated online. It may just be a lipoma. Still, the ‘gill’ theory seems more rational than my Asian grandmother’s:

‘When God was making you out of clay, he had an extra bit left over, so he put it on your neck.’ [Couldn’t he have made my boobs bigger instead?]

And that’s before we get to the amazingly racist bit:

‘White people were baked in God’s oven for too short a time, black people were baked for too long, but Asian people were baked just right.’

Sounds like a half-baked theory to me.

Lesson: If clay left over, put on boobs.

PS: Apparently my nan’s batshit insane theory is a very ancient myth from all kinds of beige and brown people.

PPS Science actually says my nan was half-right when she told me complete bollocks.

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