The time I wrote a rude greeting card, aged 7

I was seven years old, and at primary school in Willesden Green, North-West London. There, my brown skin didn’t mark me out as different, as most of the kids in my class were varying shades of brown. 

One afternoon, I was seated next to a boy from Ghana called Kwame. When I say ‘from Ghana’, I don’t mean he was ethnically African but actually from London like me, but that he had emigrated from Ghana recently, and didn’t speak much English.

The teacher handed out pieces of blank white A4 paper, coloured crayons, and misshapen lumps of white wax. 

“Today you are going to be making a card for the person next to you,” she announced. “You’re to fold the paper in half, design the front of the card with the crayons, then write a message inside using the lump of wax.”

This seemed a pointless exercise. After all, the wax didn’t show up on the white paper, so it wouldn’t matter what I wrote inside. I could write anything. 

And then I smiled mischievously to myself. I had heard other kids talking about something called ‘sex’ in the playground. I didn’t know what it meant, I just knew that it was rude. 

The lump of wax was heavy and unwieldy. Inside my card, I wrote:

Dear Kwame

I hope you are well.

Ariane

PS Sex.

I sat back, pleased with my invisible handiwork.

Then I heard the teacher say, “Now swap cards with the person next to you, and go over the inside of the card with felt tip to make the writing appear.”

I tried to stay calm. It was okay, I told myself: Kwame couldn’t read much English, and even if he did know a little, he wouldn’t know what ‘sex’ meant. I was safe.

Kwame and I swapped cards. I can’t remember what his said. I just remember freezing as the teacher walked over.

“What does your card say, Kwame?”

Kwame read it out haltingly. “Dear Kwame – I hope you – are well. Ariane – PS –”

And then he stopped, frowning.

The teacher looked over Kwame’s shoulder at the card. She silently snatched it from him and strode from the room without a word, the door swinging shut behind her.

“What does ‘sex’ mean?” I asked suddenly, panicked, to no one in particular. “I wrote ‘sex’ in my card. What does it mean?”

“UMMMM!” said the girls in my class. It wasn’t a sound that conveyed uncertainty: in the 80s in Britain, “UMMMM” was a noise that meant “now you’re for it”.

“You better pray, girl,” one of the Caribbean girls said. “You better get down on your knees and pray to the Lord that she isn’t telling your mother right now, girl!”

I started to tremble. Maybe I could say it had been a mistake?

But how could I have written ‘sex’ in error? And now I’d told the entire class that was what I’d done. They were right to say “UMMMM”: I was in big trouble.

But when the teacher came back, she didn’t mention anything about the card, or why she’d left the class for so long. She merely said “I’m going to bring round the box so you can put your materials back in.”

I thought perhaps she’d phoned my parents, but when my mother picked me up from school, she didn’t say anything about the incident either. Nothing was ever said, and for several years after that I was none the wiser as to what sex actually was.

As if not content with writing a rude word in the card, I also stole the lump of wax, as I was going through a kleptomaniac phase. I didn’t want to be discovered, though, so I hid it in my knickers and walked home in a slightly strange way. My mum asked why I was waddling. I said there was no reason, and tried to waddle a little less.

I was a very strange child.

23

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 12

Me: 12st 8.8lbs (total loss in 12 days: 5.4lbs)

I need to make it to 12st 6.5lbs by Tuesday to get my Slimming World award (so that it will register as 12st 7.5lbs on their scales with my clothes on).

John: 14st 4.5lbs (total loss in 12 days: 3lbs).

John is doing well!

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters: Ricky Steer, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month for my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but I’m even more open in it (if you can imagine that!)

It’s a wonderful, wonderful life

I had such an amazing birthday, full of friends and love. I was woken up by my eight-year-old daughter singing Happy Birthday down the phone, which was super-cute, even if it was at the crack of dawn before she went to school. I love her so much, sometimes I actually think my heart is going to explode, which would be unfortunate as my next book is called How to Live to 100. 

After being serenaded, I went for a run, because the new book I’m writing says the more exercise you do, the longer you’ll live. The run was meant to last ten minutes, but actually lasted about one minute. I’m hugely plus size and don’t own a sports bra, so was basically doing keepy-uppies with my boobs. It was not an edifying spectacle, so I curtailed it in seconds. THE SHAME!

Then I went for a massage. This was meant to be a blissful and relaxing experience. In reality, it meant having a strange woman’s elbow ground into my buttocks as I screamed in pain. ‘It will feel good after,’ she reassured me. I was like: yeah, because you’ll have stopped! This is the same beauty salon where I was ‘cupped’ against my will last week by an over-eager therapist. My back now looks like I’ve had sex with an octopus. I haven’t had any sex for ages, even though my new book says it lengthens life expectancy, so I guess I have to take what I can get…

Cupping

After the Massage of Pain, I enjoyed sushi at Yo! Sushi in Westfield Stratford City with my friend John, one of the warmest and funniest people ever. He’s almost exactly 30 years older than me, so next year we’re going to celebrate our 40th and 70th birthdays together and turn 110. Because he couldn’t quite be my grandad (he would have had to have been 15), I call him my Illegal Grandad. So he got me this birthday card:

John's card

Hilarious, and yet somehow so wrong.

Then I spent my best friend Graham’s birthday present: a £25 Paperchase gift card. I love stationery so much, I would have walked around the shop sniffing all the notebooks if it wasn’t ridiculously antisocial. If you want to make me happy, just send me a Paperchase gift card and I will happily spunk it on bits of overpriced paper. Hell yeah. I also bought a memory jar, which I’m going to fill with all my favourite recollections.

Paperchase

After that, John and I went to see the film Yesterday, which was very enjoyable and a solid 7/10. The best character was the cynical, sociopathic artist manager, who had absolutely no filter. She was great, and Ed Sheeran was also good value. It was a much better film than Support the Girls, which we saw on Monday on Barack Obama’s recommendation. It was rubbish and we walked out after 20 minutes (I had to wake John up as he was asleep!). My new mission is to track down the rest of Bazza’s favourite films so I can avoid them all.

Yesterday

Throughout the day, I was amazed by incredible messages of kindness on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It was a real outpouring of love, and I felt overwhelmed and so happy. Human beings can be so lovely. Sometimes I think I have few friends compared to other people and feel quite lonely – I don’t have a big group of girly mates, for instance, and I’m a bit different to other people as my life hasn’t been the easiest 39 trips around the sun – but on days like this I realise I have lots of support out there, and it means the world to me.

The pièce de résistance of my 39th birthday was a meal at dreamy Soho dim sum restaurant Yauatcha with my wonderful friend Annabel. She’s just so big-hearted and generous and funny. She arranged for them to bring out a birthday ice cream with a candle for me, and sang Happy Birthday! We only really struck up our friendship earlier this year, after knowing each other a little for 12 years (we used to work together) and every time I see her, it’s like having happiness injected into my soul. (Yes, I am very soppy…)

Annabel

All that’s left to say is: thank you if you were a part of my birthday. It’s the best one I can remember, and I can’t wait to see what the year ahead holds.

This post has been made possible by my Patreon supporters Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Lucy Spencer, Mark White, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of amazing rewards in addition to this credit! Please support me on Patreon.