Monday, 19 September 2011

Snogging with tongues

Just over ten years ago, I was a committed smoker. I loved a fag. One for each lung, 20 a day, chimney on my head. That was me. Rock and Roll. I knew that smoking was bad for you. After all, I awoke every morning feeling that I had a breeze-block on my chest and of course, I used to get black snot. I blamed this on the pollution in London, where I lived at the time. But it wasn’t diesel fumes. It was just fag muck. So when my best mate’s Mum died prematurely, after having held off breast cancer for 5 years, I thought, “What the hell. I’ll do a standing order to Cancer Research in her memory. I might be glad of it one day because I’m a smoker and my Mum’s a smoker too. It will be like an insurance policy.”

My mum was the worst out of us both. She’d been on the Bennies for fifty years, rattling through about fifteen a day and smoking the dimps, even when there was hardly anything left. Her breath always smelled of dog fart but she was trim and looked fit on the outside at the age of 60. She had markedly less bingo-wings than me. But I wasn’t daft. Despite her protestations that she knew people who smoked all their lives but still lived to be 200, I knew the ciggies were doing me in. I gave up. Frequently. But I could never stay stopped. Problem was, whenever I tried to give up, Mum would wave a brand new packet in front of my face and say, “Go on. You know you want one. You’re a pain in the arse to live with so why suffer?” I guess she didn’t want to be alone and I did love them.

I didn’t smoke during my pregnancy with my first child but I restarted soon after she was born because the other mothers in my post-natal group also smoked and liked a drink. We felt we were members of some smug, invincible rock n’ roll mums’ band. My husband has never smoked but also never complained. I just didn’t do it indoors and it had been years since we snogged with tongues. I never questioned it.

Then my Mum had an unshiftable chest infection. They x-rayed her and found a shadow on her lung. It was a stage 1 tumour. She was lucky. The specialist had caught it soon after the onset and the surgeon at Wythenshawe hospital just chopped half of one lobe of her lung away and that was that. I gave up smoking forever the day they spotted the shadow. Even Mum gave up. That was it. We’d had it with fags. She survived and has been clear for about 7 years now, thankfully. But I’ll never forget the sight of the others on her ward who had also had major surgery for lung cancer. I think all of them, apart from my lucky lucky mother, had left it too late. They didn’t look so cool or rock n roll, shuffling around the ward, carrying a pot full of their own lung fluid as it drained off their rotten chests. They were dying. Because of fags and because of Cancer. The Big C.

So, I’d been into running since I was 17. Almost losing my Mum and seeing the photographs of my son’s first birthday party, where I looked like a happy heffalump, gave me the impetus to lose my wobbly jawline and get fit. Really fit. And to start running further with my newly cleansed, fag free lungs. I wanted to raise money for Cancer Research so that other people like me didn’t have to say goodbye too early to their loved ones because of The Big C. I had been right from the outset. Starting my standing order to Cancer Research really was like an insurance policy against grief and loss. And now, of course, I had kids – all the more reason to look after my health.

I stared with a 10K and soon progressed to a half marathon in aid of Cancer Research. The pain of running 13+ miles on stumpy, varicose veined, Kevin Keegan legs – I’m no gazelle – was worth it when I poured almost £1000 in the charity’s coffers. I felt like I was putting my karma account in the pink. After that first half marathon, I swore never again to do such a long distance but when I couldn’t shift two homemade Christmas cakes from my haunches last Winter, I thought sod it, I’m going to sign up to the Great North Run. I can get rid of all those glace cherries and raise money at the same time.

So today, post race, I feel like shit. I’m walking like a crippled penguin and my cheeks are so burned from the salt that remained plastered to my face until 8.30pm, that I look like a German farmer. I have chaffing just about everywhere from ill-fitting underwear – even on my underboobs - and my foot is utterly knackered. A wise friend said I was a bit of a moron to be running on an injured foot but do you know what? He was only 50% right because I made it to the end in a reasonable time for one of my hobbit-like stature (you should see the hair on my feet) and I can feel that my karma account is in credit. That feels bloody great. Better still, as I ran past a bunch of Geordies who were watching the runners with pallid, expressionless faces whilst having a fag, I thought to myself, “These bastards are going to thank me one of these days and they’ll only realise that when it’s too late.”

Best of all, though, as a writer I have trained my mind to endure the marathon as well as my body – always a plus when you’re writing a novel. And I’ve set my children a great example of what it is to be a good person. Sometimes there is great reward to be had in living through shit for the betterment of others.

Oh, and I now regularly snog my husband with tongues.


  1. Great read and congratulations on your fantastic achievement.
    I ran the London Marathon last year for Breakthrough, If my door mat is graced with the sound of a large envelope giving me a place in next years' shenanigans, I'll have to shift the one and a half stone on blubber I have matured around my ageing waist!

  2. Thanks for the read, the run and the image of you snogging with tongues. People like you make this world a better place.

  3. Glad you liked the post, guys.
    Maximum respect to you, oh worth Runningdrums. The London marathon is no small feat and Breakthrough's an excellent charity. Good luck with your application to run again and also with your own lard meltdown. Mine is also an ageing waist. The only way is outwards.
    And, Wendy, your comments are always welcome here, kiddo!
    Please share this blog if you like it on FB or wherever. It would be nice if a few more signed up.