There’s a BABY in my JEANS!

7 Mar

Today, finally, I turn to Take a Break. A comment on Facebook made me think that first I would like to pay tribute to this magazine. Tanya wrote movingly about how medical knowledge taken from the pages of TaB saved her lovely daughter’s life when she came down with meningitis. I’ve known Tanya’s story for years, and was pleased to read it, suitably TaB stylised, when it appeared in the hallowed pages a while ago. Unlike the glossies, there’s useful public health information to be found in the True Lifes. Instead of a steady stream of pentapeptides, you can pick up information on the first signs of serious physical and mental illness. TaB has campaigned for several issues to be taken more seriously by the medical profession: breast reduction (The Breast Reduction Alliance, no less), birth injuries, post-natal depression, SPD, and more. It looks at issues that concern mostly women, and represents a surprisingly feminist corner of the press. Although it maintains a vaguely anti-abortion editorial line (memorably, its agony aunt once recommended someone unexpectedly pregnant turn to Life for advice, and had to apologise in the next issue),  the magazine in the main represents the interests of women. It runs an annual competition which looks at angles of women in business, the winner meeting the Prime Minister. It maintains a clear and constant line on domestic violence; those deaths that you hear about in the news that are normally gone and forgotten? The families of those victims are here, and the message is always zero tolerance.

Right, enough niceness. Over to Your Brainwaves, and one I would like to share in case anyone finds it genuinely useful. To get rid of scratches on a CD, dab a little smooth peanut butter on it, then wipe it off with a coffee filter paper. Afterwards your CD will be as good as new. I would love to know if this works. Thanks, John Carlos Manuel! You know I’ve just gone about health? Well, this issue is no exception. From the Heartbeat health pages: Give your cupcakes a healthy boost by sprinkling bee pollen granules on top. A natural multivitamin, Comvita Bee Pollen is collected by honeybees, and is then carefully dried and processed to preserve vital nutrients. Soil has nutrients, so I shall be saving myself £10 for 125g and chucking that on my cakes.

Liz Wilde’s Real Beauty tackles the tricky subject of fake hair. Rarely a good idea for those with less than £6m in the bank, my favourite here is the Fake Ponytail. It’s available in 11 shades, so what could go wrong?

There are some good love cheats in this edition. First up is Roberto. His ex-girlfriend Helen tells the story of his affair with a younger woman. Helen is typical of many women who tell their stories in that she manages to explain away so many signs of faithlessness that you get the impression Roberto could have arrived home with ‘cheater’ written on his face in lipstick, half his clothes missing and a wedding ring on, and she would have believed he’d come from a fancy dress party. Roberto stays out later and later, goes missing for entire nights, is being called at home by an attractive younger colleague and becomes distant before Helen decides something must be going on. After they part, in a surreal coda to the tale, Helen becomes a Goldie Hawn lookalike. In the finest traditions of lookalikes, a fair old squint is necessary before you can spot this, but she claims to be making a living.

By contrast Margaret is fairly quick to spot that Neil is cheating. After he develops an impressive-sounding habit of texting while his phone was in his pocket, he only needs to go missing for three hours for her to finger his lying collar. He has fallen for a woman called Lorraine and has been round her house six times in a week doing decorating. Given that three hours absence was noticed, presumably he’s given up his job for this one. He leaves, but is back weeks later, proclaiming undying love. They exchange saucy text messages (have you ever done anything ‘saucy’?) and spend the night together. The very next day, the Rat gets married, to Lorraine. Our Margaret finds out and heads off to the Register Office to stop the wedding but is unsuccessful. Which of us hasn’t dreamed of that sort of scene at a dull wedding? Maybe Margaret can be hired to add spice to any ceremony? The story ends When Take a Break approached Neil and Lorraine for comment, Lorraine said: ‘Tell Margaret she can get stuffed’. And so, with dignity, we draw a veil.

Once more with the health stories, we find our cover girl, Jane, 44. Very much in the manner of a Top Gun pilot, Jane sits around enjoying her grandchild. It was like having another child except that we got to have all the fun with none of the responsibility. ‘My nappy changing days are over’ I told Gary. Uh, oh. Jane puts on weight, but like many of us, is a bit of a pie fan, so ignores it. She becomes constantly tired and decides she is menopausal. While out shopping in Belper, Jane feels pain. It must be that pizza from last night she thinks. She has a cup of tea, as that heals all ills, but remains unwell. A chemist recommends ibuprofen. She sits on a bench and feels worse. Not for a Jane the bouncy ball, the warm water, the gas and air, the epidural – I suspect we have all worked out where this is heading. Finally her son-in-law decides he’s taking her home, she stands up, needs to go to the loo and bends over. Suddenly her companion is gasping. ‘Jane’ he cried. ‘There’s a baby in your jeans!’ I think we can assume Jane is not a wearer of skinny jeans. And that is that. The story has a very happy ending and the baby, named James, is wearing a nice top from Sainsburys that my daughter also owns. There is a large picture of the bench involved to illustrate the story. Andrew becomes one of a possibly vanishingly small group of men to have witnessed a baby emerging down his mother-in-law’s trousers on a Saturday afternoon in Derbyshire. In a very real way, I feel really this is HIS story.

My HUSBAND let me get PREGNANT by holiday WAITER

6 Mar

If you think the subject of the title story displays a stunning lack of personal responsibility, you’d be right. But more of her later. We’re back to That’s Life!, a pre-Christmas edition.

I’ve managed so far to avoid mentioning Top Tips, those money saving ideas from readers made famous by Viz. It may come as little surprise to find that these pages are really beyond parody. I’ve never seen a Viz tip that couldn’t be equalled by the real thing. Readers’ Brainwaves (TaB) or their equivalents (here, Tightwad Tips) are full of things that can be ‘popped’ into others, decorations that no one could think necessary, a relentless drive to ‘cheer up’ objects such as wheelie bins and furniture castors, and above all, 392 uses for laddered tights. My favourite to date was a feature which invited readers to find ’10 uses for…’ in which some brave soul had taken on ‘sanitary towels’. Idea five was a fashionable pair of slippers.

Back to the edition in hand. Alick, from Scotland, brings us this one. Save money by buying just the one electric toothbrush, but getting individual brush heads for each family member to use. Perhaps some electric toothbrush manufacturer will seize on this and sell sets of brush heads. Um. Also, Linda from Dagenham has a revolutionary notion. If your pet’s a messy eater, put a tray under its food bowl to keep your floor clean. Yes, especially if you have carpets.

Back in the Beauty Salon, Sandra Curtis wonders how she can wow her husband under the mistletoe. Lisa suggests a vajazzle, available from for just £6. Lisa sends samples of her recommendations out, so we shall have to imagine what Sandra Curtis (and her friends and family) made of that one.

The fashion pages of these magazines are, one could say, less aspirational than other women’s magazines. This edition features PURPLE, including a pair of buckled purple shoes from the descriptively-named Fifty Plus, and Bonmarche jewellery. Meanwhile, on the Stars page, Sagittarians learn that a gadget could connect you to success and Scorpios are perhaps banging down the doors of Fifty Plus as they’re told to be bold with your wardrobe choices and you’ll be sure to make an impression.

A rather gruesome story features on the front cover as Trapped on the loo for a week: I was too FAT to escape. Sensitively introduced on p18 as Oh dear, what can the matter be?, Prisoner on the privy tells the story of Pam, who lives alone and loses all feeling in her legs one evening, while answering nature’s call after her daily Deal Or No Deal viewing. Remarkably she survives a week without food or water, but the loo seat becomes embedded in her bottom. Stories like this are more tragic than funny – Pam ended up in hospital for over a year and is still in a wheelchair – but they are played for laughs. But Pam, who was ‘perked up’ by That’s Life! in hospital, will hopefully enjoy seeing herself over a double page spread.

And so to our star, Dawn French. Not THAT Dawn French! No, this is Dawn, 33, of Wigan. Dawn is married and is bought a holiday to Turkey with her best friend by her husband as a treat. They say ‘this is the life’ and drink Sex on the Beach and ogle the barmen and waiters. But then one pays her real attention. There’s a photo of him. He looks like a Turkish Lurch and has one of those odd chin strips of beard. She describes him as gorgeous though, so we should buy into this.

And here I should explain about the Turkish Love Rat. Take a Break actually got into trouble with the Turkish Embassy for its relentless coverage of the Love Rat, and created a memorable Charter for the middle-aged tourists that pointed and laughed at its own readership. Years ago, when I was on holiday in Istanbul, I went to a supermarket to buy water and a member of staff came up to me and said ‘I love you’. I obviously ignored this but the reason he tried is within the pages of our magazines. There are women who respond to this gibberish, and they need saving from themselves. These men attach themselves to women who may not be getting much attention at home, flatter them relentlessly, and end up one way or another getting money or other advantages from them. Typically the woman is around 30 years older than the Rat, and is prepared to ignore all her friends and family in pursuit of a bit of Turkish tail.

Back to Dawn French, not the famous one. She and her friend start to drink Screaming Orgasms and she is so caught up with this edgy naming of an alcoholic drink that she sleeps with the waiter. You may be wondering at this point how her husband has enabled this. Wonder on, as you’ll never work it out. At least she shows no interest in marrying the man but rightly avoids him and his bar for the rest of her stay. Hearing stories of Rats from others, she decides that she’s probably only one of many. In this realisation, she is a million miles ahead of the average dupe, and saves us a sorry story of deception and endless texts that only prove how much he loves her.

Back home, she confesses to her one night stand, and is forgiven. But then she realises she is pregnant and this pushes her husband beyond his limits. But then, hadn’t he practically let me get pregnant by a Turkish waiter? After all, he’d packed me off on holiday while our marriage was so stagnant. Shouldn’t he share some of the blame? NO, you sexually incontinent baggage. Sadly she loses the baby, more happily her husband comes home and they pose together for the story. As she wisely sums up I want to warn other women not to make the same mistake. The only local you want to try out on holiday is the wine. So think on, slappers.

My son, 4, is so FAT I want to give him AWAY

5 Mar

Well, here we are with post one. I am kicking off with That’s Life! A stablemate of Take a Break from H Bauer, it is more downmarket. (No sniggering at the back.) You can tell it’s hokum because it has a psychic, although not a pet psychic admittedly, and a True Crime feature. This week’s recipes include a Mixed Veg Pie, with optional salami, and the ominous sounding Mexican Beef Loaf. Diane, the psychic detective, sees this week’s letter writer ‘holding hands in Dubai’. I do hope that’s not illegal.

A call for contributions neatly sums up half the contents of every edition. Have you ever been the victim of a dirty, rotten LOVE CHEAT? Has your man played away with a neighbour, had a fling with someone from work or betrayed you by sleeping with one of your mates? Perhaps he’s had a one night stand or bedded a string of women behind your back. Maybe you’ve met a phony on holiday or a scumbag who ran off with your life savings or humiliated you in other ways.

For those of you who’ve ever wondered why people go on Embarrassing Bodies Ria is here to tell us about her Triple Nipple. She rather implausibly talks about ‘dashing’ and ‘hunky’ Dr Christian Jessen (who she never meets) and describes herself as a freak. Meanwhile, on the next page, and also on the boob front, we have Michelle with her gobsmackingly detailed photos of the day her breast implant fell out. With panache, this is described in print. Lying in bed, I felt my right boob expand further and further…Until finally – pop! As suggested by its very title, there is no situation that That’s Life! can’t sum up with an exclamation mark.

Lisa’s Beauty Salon advice page contains an intriguing query. Whenever I use eye make-up remover pads, I always find a residue of mascara around my eyes the next morning. Any other ideas? Lisa manages not to suggest she looks in a mirror.

Consumer SOS features the heartwrenching tale of Maria, whose mother insisted on paying for doubleglazing for her as she lay on her deathbed.‘Before I go’ she said, ‘I want to buy you a gift – new windows!’ Although she was cruelly ripped off by some cowboys, a nice decent firm put everything right for free. The thrilling conclusion is ‘we wanted to help Maria and show there are many decent reputable double-glazing firms out there too’. Hold on to your hats, readers.

But now to the story you’ve all been waiting for. The inside headline is different, and a whole new world of wrong is born. Give my 4-year-old a GASTRIC BAND. This story has been put in the magazine for others to sneer at, and I wouldn’t want that effort to go to waste. Before I say anything, those who know me will be aware that I am not a slim lass. However, I am able to admit that this is due to too many pies and not enough time off the sofa. I am not fat for any mysterious or tragic reason. That said, I can move on to the story of Danielle. Danielle grew up overweight, despite being fed ‘healthy dinners of sausage and mash’. Hmm. Binge eating had its effects. The woman didn’t even have sex till she was, wait for it, NINETEEN YEARS OLD, PEOPLE. Nevertheless, she fell pregnant (the women in these magazines are always falling pregnant, as if one’s ovaries can just fall on some sperm while no one is looking) and had a child. That’s not the one she wants to give away though. Next time round, in a delicious detail, she falls pregnant ‘after a fling with a trolley boy at Ikea’ – there are no trolley boys at my Ikea – and the result is Samuel, who is a right porker. In what is frankly an extremely hard-to-picture scenario, she apparently tries everything with Samuel. If I cooked a healthy meal, he’d scream and cry. ‘No, Mummy, no!’  he’d shriek.  ‘Just a little bit of broccoli’ I’d coax, holding the fork to his lips. It’s no surprise, as she reveals that she then heads off to McDonalds for a Happy Meal. Many of the children I know, when threatened with a morsel of broccoli, would raise hell if they knew a McDonalds would appear. But my daughter, nine months, loves broccoli and has never tasted McDonalds, so we may assume Samuel is older than that? Well, perhaps, except she then reveals that this situation precedes Samuel’s learning to walk. In fact, once he’s up and about, he learns toopen the fridge and help himself. There’s NOTHING she can do. Presumably her own legs have stopped working by now. The details churn on in depressingly predictable ways. No exercise, crap food, no parental control. Samuel learns to break a plastic lock on the fridge door. He’s now four, and Danielle feels a gastric band is the only way forward. It’s hard to know where this one will go. Samuel is not vast. Neither is she. Sky aren’t about to make any documentaries here. But I can’t be the only reader who wants to go round there with a bulldog face on and make this woman see sense.

Welcome to the real world

5 Mar

In 1995, for my birthday, some (cheapskate) friends bought me a copy of Take a Break. It featured a woman who baked Yorkshire Puddings while watching the comings and goings at the brothel her neighbour had started. I was hooked by the mixture of incongruous detail, faux outrage and writing style. This cheap publication became a habit. It was an escape from the slightly scary world of university, of first jobs and real relationships. In sharp contrast to women’s glossies, it made me feel good about myself, because very rarely did my life compare unfavourably to those in the magazine. Most important, it was hilarious. Take a Break was joined by a raft of similar: That’s Life!, Real People, Pick Me Up etc. TaB remains the Queen of them all. No other has launched political parties, got into No. 10, (the two are sadly not linked), become the most-read weekly or featured ME on the front cover as a wedding day surprise.

Nowadays I have a baby, two stepkids and a job, and my time to read all this rubbish is limited. But I carry on trying and I decided I would like to share my thoughts. I read whichever real life magazines I buy each week, although it can take me weeks to get around to reading them. Since having a child, I freely admit I find many of the stories more moving than I used to, but I can still laugh with the best of them. So if you want to know what’s behind the headlines but can’t bring yourself to hand over your own 76p, then look no further.