In this month’s dispatch from the frontline of chitchat, Lou Conran reflects on E numbers, red eyelids and the day she got high on a pork pie in a static caravan in Whitby.
You know when you were little and you got invited to parties and there was always that one child who was swinging off the lampshade, off their tits on crab paste sandwiches and jelly? Yeah, well that was me. Sorry.
I was taken to hospital for tests to see if I was in any way “challenged”. I was. I was allergic to everything.
Apart from the usual house dust mites, cats and wasp/bee sting stuff it turned out that I was majorly allergic to E numbers and preservatives. This ensured that I spent the first ten years of my life swinging from people’s light fittings and laughing hysterically in their faces as they tried in vain to calm me down.
I forget which ones I’m allergic to – something to do with tartrazine and cochineal or something (amongst others). But because of this I was placed on an additive free diet for three months and fed a daily dose of what was either a placebo or something that just made me feel like shit. My mum had to record any changes in my behaviour and write down whether I’d had a reaction to anything. She also had to cook me separate dinners to ensure I ate only natural unprocessed food. As for Sunday dinner pudding, well, I got my very own baked apple and egg custard.
I hate egg custard. It’s like someone filling your mouth with a gelatinous fart.
In the end the tests were inconclusive. You’re not supposed to react to placebos. I did – or so they thought. Until I got my period and it turned out that the last three months of testing had been a write off due to my hormone imbalance and my behaviour charts read like my parents had invited Chucky to stay for the summer holidays. Happy 10th birthday!
A few years after these tests I got my first proper job in a garden centre. One particularly boring Sunday I’d munched my way through a third of a box of Cola Cubes and was just tucking into the penny chews when a coachload of oldies arrived to ruin my peace. I grabbed another carton of orange juice, sank it in seconds and prepared myself for the inevitable onslaught of questions about the location of the toilets and John Innes No. 2 Potting Compost.
The tills filled up at exactly the same time I started to “come up” on the orange juice. And come up I did. You could usually tell when I was going to be a nightmare because the skin on my lower eyelids would go bright red and it would only be a matter of time before I’d be swinging from the ceiling and laughing maniacally.
It was a lady with blue hair who got it that day. For some reason I found her absolutely hilarious. She was just a lady buying John Innes No. 2 Potting Compost and asking me exactly the same questions as everyone else but this one was doing it with blue hair. I just couldn’t contain myself. I think it was the moment I started pointing at her and laughing that they finally carried me off to the staff room and locked me in.
I spent the next few hours laughing at myself, laughing at the lady with blue hair*, laughing at being locked in a room and then crying hysterically because I was exhausted.
They said I’d grow out of it but I haven’t. A few years ago I “came up” on a party pork pie in a static caravan in Whitby. It was fabulous…until I ate a bit more and it had the opposite effect. As I slid down the wall of the caravan all that could be heard was me, swollen mouthed, mumbling, “Sometimes it goes the other way…”
The older I get the harder I fall: although my recovery from that particular incident probably wasn’t helped by the copious amount of gin I’d drunk in a mistaken effort to raise my spirits.
I suppose I could have lived my life on a Gillian McKeith-style diet of mung beans and joyless tofu. But I haven’t. Still I do tend to avoid sweets and anything fluorescent. I love a good vindaloo but if I can see it glowing in the kitchen before it gets to my table I will avoid it: not just because there is a likelihood it’ll make my arse bleed, but because I don’t want to be carried out of the restaurant in a straightjacket.
But there are positives too. Sometimes my allergies can provide a good excuse when I’m slightly irrational or just being a bellend. And being allergic to certain things is a wonderful way of growing old disgracefully, which I fully intend to do: bloomers aloft, pork pie in hand; wizzing my tits off on my Zimmer.
*Karma works in mysterious ways. My hair is now naturally white and every time I apply a blonde toner it turns bright blue. I don’t laugh. Other people do but I don’t. It’s so bloody frustrating. That poor woman.
Lou is a comedian, writer, actor, lover of curry and cheese, and is also a giant simple child.