Dear Janine - Please can I borrow your nipples?
The lost battery which nearly sparked a terror alert to the woman who's lost her nipples.
Life can be a bit different if you're disabled or have a mental health difficulty, but sometimes it is just be plain hilarious.
Andy Duffy, Sajeela Kershi and Janine Hammond take to the stage at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to tell true stories on the theme of Lost and Found.
From Andy's missing wheelchair battery which almost sparked the evacuation of a London museum, to Sajeela's recent hearing loss which meant she mistook a rude, insulting man, for someone paying her a compliment.
Reece Finnegan, who's blind, wakes up hungover and without any of his possessions in his boss' house, and must somehow find his way out. Then there's Janine Hammond who lost her nipples, twice. First to cancer, then to showbiz.
This is the first episode of BBC Ouch: Storytelling Live 2019, hosted by comedian Chris McCausland.
Subscribe to Ouch on BBC Sounds. Like us, rate us and leave a nice review - this helps others find our programmes.
Email email@example.com Tweet @bbcouch or find us on Facebook.
Ouch Podcast Transcript: 30-08-19
Ouch Talk Show August 2019
Presented by Chris McCausland
Hi, It's Niamh Highes from the Ouch team with a quick note that there are swears and a few adult themes in this podcast, so be warned.
This is part one of our almost uncut version of our storytelling show for 2019 recorded in front of a live audience. Part two will be dropped onto this feed in the next couple of weeks. Enjoy! Oh and tweet and Facebook us with your comments as well. Yay!
Welcome to Ouch Storytelling Live, My name's Chris McCausland and 'm going to be introducing four amazing storytellers recorded live and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome your host for tonight, Chris McCauseland.
Hello Ladies and gentleman. Welcome to Ouch Storytelling Live, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. My name's Chris McCausland. I am blind, that is what qualifies me to be here tonight. And I haven't always been blind, that's worth mentioning at the start, and you do get used to it, right? There aren't too many things I feel like I'm missing out on in the world these days. It's the little things that get me, just the little things in life, you know, like the ability to just be able to stand up off the toilet, take a step away from the toilet, and then just turn back and have a little look down. [laughter]
Just admire your work for a couple of minutes, you know, see what you've been capable of this time. It's not the same when you've got to put your hand in. [groans] Okay, just a little ice breaker, that's all that is, just my way of ensuring no one wants to shake hands with me after the show.
I've just turned 42, just a month ago. I'm enjoying being in my 40s if I'm honest with you, I feel good for it. You know, I don't do birthday parties though. I didn't even have a 40th. My mates, they took me to see Guns N' Roses live. Or so they told me anyway. [laughter] I mean I suppose we could have just gone to one of their houses and put the live album on loud really couldn't we? Charge me six quid a pint for three hours. "Yeah, not as busy as you thought it would have been, this Guns N' Roses concert is it, Chris? Not as popular as they once were it seems. You enjoying yourself?" "Yeah, no it's sound mate, sound. A little bit weird that there's a cat, but never mind." [laughter]
I told my wife about that bit of material and she said to me, "If you did get your sight back tomorrow what is the first thing you'd want to see?" And I said, "Well, it's Sophie isn't it? My daughter, Sophie. Of course it's Sophie." I said, "'Cos it's not just what she looks like that I'm missing out on, it's all the wonderful, interesting, amazing things she's been doing and that she does. You know, it starts off with the crawling, the walking, the running, the jumping, the dancing, the dressing up. The drawing, the smiles, all the smiles." I said, "Of course it's Sophie." My wife said, "Good, and I'd be second, would I?" I said, "Yeah, yeah, all right, you can be second then."
She said, "What do you mean, yeah, yeah, all right, you can be second then?" I said, "Well, it just depends doesn't it? I mean, are we counting Mohamed Salah in all of this?" Because Mohamed Salah is doing things with a football I can't even begin to imagine inside my head. Mohamed Salah is making magic happen week in and week out. Every single day of my life I'm thinking I wish I could see my daughter. Every single week of my life I'm thinking I wish I could see Mohamed Salah. No offence to my wife, but it's not like she's doing anything interesting is it? [laughter] [groans]
Do you all know her? [laughter]
She said to me, "I can't believe you love Mohamed Salah more than you love me." I said, "I don't. I love you both equally the same." [laughter] That's a joke. Of course it's a joke. I love my wife more, of course I do. I love my wife more, but he makes me happier. [laughter]
Some of these acts have never done stand-up before. So we want lots of support, you guys have all been an audience before so this is all down to you. We have got a series of storytellers today who each have a disability or a mental health difficulty. They've all been selected from 130 true stories submitted to our inbox at Ouch. The theme this year is lost and found, and we've let the guys interpret that however they want to. The only criteria is that the stories are all true. So guys, let me ask you, are you ready for your first storyteller of the show?
Ladies and gentlemen, would you please welcome to the stage Sajeela Kershi! [applause]
Hello. Hello. Hello Edinburgh, how are you? So here's the thing, right? So, I'm a comedian and I'm with my friend, Bisha, and she's having a go at me, right? She's having a go at me. We'd just come outside of my gig at this venue and we're standing outside the venue. Now, this guy comes over, right, he starts having a conversation with us. And I think he must have come from my show, and judging by his smiling face, right, clearly loved the show. Oh, the ego of the performer, eh?
And the thing is, right, I think well, what a lovely, sweet, friendly man, right? What a lovely sweet, friendly man. Let me just give you some background into the kind of person I am. I'm one of those really, really irritating people pleasing idiots, right? So, as a performer I'm a tad needy. So a man, right, who's smiling at me literally has me at hello. Literally has me at hello and smiling.
Now, the thing is, Bisha's version of events is completely different to mine. Bisha saw the guy walking up behind me from the street, not from the gig as I'd assumed, right? She sees him walking behind me and he comes up and she heard him say, "Look at you two. Look at you two. Why don't you go back to where you came from?" Wow.
I've got no idea. I couldn't hear anything at this meeting, right? They didn't have any subtitles and we don't always have a budget for a deaf interpreter. Am I right deafies, am I right?
My disability is so new it hurts like new shoes. And actually the little attachments to my hearing aids are actually called shoes. They're like the Bluetooth Jimmy Choos of ears, right? And they do cost a fortune, just like Jimmy Choos. They do pinch like hell, but it's worth it, 'cos they make me feel amazing and confident.
Now the thing is, obviously, I think ladies will appreciate this, when I go home the first thing I want to do is take my bra off, right? Am I right, ladies?
Take the bloody bra off, take those shoes off and take my hearing aids out. Obviously I take out the hearing aids first, I don't really want to hear my tits slap my shoes. [laughter] Not a good sound at all, right, so I won't be missing that.
I mean the first time I noticed anything was wrong was I'm on stage, right, so what happened is I'm a performer obviously and I'm on stage and I was being hilarious, absolutely bloody hilarious, but didn't have a clue why, right? Because I wasn't intending to be. So it turns out that when I was talking to people in the audience I was repeating back completely the wrong thing. I'd be like, "Hey sir, so how did you meet your wife? Oh, you met her in a Cuban trans club did you? Hmm." Turns out he'd met her in transit in Cuba. [laughter]
There is a bonus to losing hearing, because you get a disability travel card. A third off travel for me plus one. Whohoo can I hear a whoop whoop for that. Can we stick it to the man, We love sticking it to the man. Now, I have to say, I get stopped for my disability card all the time, people want to check it all the time. And it's like the film, 'The Great Escape', when he gets on the bus, do you remember? And like always if I'm getting on the bus, on the train, they'll whisper, the ticket inspector, hear ticket inspector whispers behind me, "Good luck," thinking if I turn around they'll catch me out, right? This happens all the time. I'm like, "Mate, mate, amateur. I'm Asian, right? I'm used to airport security. This shit is nothing." But at least I don't have to take my ear shoes off when I go through the ticket office, right? At least I don't have to do that.
As I said, the first hearing had gone in my left ear and it was quite simple. I was told that it was only the one ear and you kind of adapt. You get a hearing aid and I got fitted with that and it was fine, you know, it's all cool. It's pretty easy with one hearing aid for moderate to, you know, medium hearing loss. Two years ago I took on a commission. It was for a play to be written over four months, and during those four months my right hearing started to go in my right ear, the good ear.
And I went back to the ENT and they told me that obviously the hearing's now going, it's going to be permanent, but they can't tell me how long I've got. They've got no explanation as to why the hearing's going. I get fitted for a new set of hearing aids. Now, these hearing aids, they're horrendous, they're awful, they've got like wires sticking out of them. I look like an Ood from 'Doctor Who', right? And the audiologist says, "You know, it looks great, you can hardly notice them coming through your ears. You could just trim them or something."
On the one hand the silence is deafening if I take them out. On the other hand if I put them in, oh my God, when did the world get so scary and loud and tinny? It's all so loud and horrible. They told me they don't know how long I've got with my hearing. It could be years. The only thing is I didn't have years.
Over the course of those four months my hearing went day by day by day as I wrote my play. And I'm now profoundly deaf and it's horrendous. I'm alone in my own head, right? And I can't hear anything. And people are starting to treat me like an idiot. Basically they start to treat me like I was when I was an immigrant when I came to this country, - "Can you hear me?" Well yes, I can actually, because I can hear what you're saying.
I've written a play and it's great, but I'm also, during the day what I do is, right, because this career, this stuff, this doesn't work all the time, right? People are creative, you don't get work all the time so you have to top up. So I work for a charity, I'm a fundraiser. I'm a tele fundraiser and I'm really good, but my hearing's going, right, and it turns out that you can't… You know, when they tell you how much they want to donate I couldn't hear them and you can't really make a sum up, right? Even if it's for charity you can't just invent a figure for them. [laughter]
But I kind of broke down at work, at my tele fundraising job, because somebody on the phone couldn't hear. I couldn't hear them and I couldn't make out what they were saying and I kept asking them over and again, "Could you repeat that? Could you repeat that?" And they got annoyed with me and that was it, that was my rock bottom really. I started crying with snot bubbles, really unattractive snot bubbles, mascara running down my face, you know, on my manager's shoulder. I'm just a butt ugly crier. And the thing is I can't even hug people because when you hug people with hearing aids you get really terrible white noise feedback. It's horrendous.
I had hit rock bottom and I couldn't see a way out of this horrible mess because there's silence in my head and if I put the hearing aids on the world doesn't sound the way it used to sound, it's like I don't get it. I don't get who I am. But I told you about the rail card, right? I get a third off travel which is great, okay? But I'm travelling on the train, I'm travelling on the train, and here's the thing, right, I've also got a deviated septum. Basically I can't smell though my nose. A deviated septum comes from my balance problems brought on by my vertigo which may or may not have caused my hearing loss, right?
Now, I'm on the platform on a train, or I'll be catching a train, and I've had beans on toast for breakfast, perhaps ill advisedly, and so what I do is I fart. Come on, we've all bloody done it, right? You think no one's looking, no one's hearing, I'll fart. I hadn't got my hearing aids in and I realise… The thing is I can't smell or hear it. I can't smell or hear my own fart. It's a Schrodinger's fart. It smells and doesn't smell at the same time, right? Now, I'm on the platform and I've farted. Unknown to me there's a family behind me and judging by their faces, right, their ears and nostrils have definitely been doing the time for my crime. [laughter]
Now the thing is I'm having to come to terms with the new me. The reason why I'm finding it a struggle to tell you today is because it's so fresh, it's so new. I don't know, there's a thing in comedy, like … tragedy plus time equals and I just don't think the time has passed for me to be able to talk so openly. But I think today will help, coming out openly, because I struggled and the only time that I actually met my people was when I went to lip reading classes, right, I enrolled in lip reading classes.
And it was interesting because I'm in the lip reading class but I was in total denial, because I thought I don't really belong. I said, "Guys, guys, you know, I don't really need to be here, I'm not really like you, you know, there's nothing wrong with me, I'm okay, you know, I'm really okay. I'm fine, fine." And this woman, she came up, she goes, "Look love, I think you're in total denial about being deaf." And she was right. And the thing is because I wasn't talking to anyone, I wasn't telling anyone, I was trying to keep it secret, I thought if I tell people they'll stop booking me for gigs, they'll stop booking me for work, they'll stop getting me on radio, and maybe going publicly on air, on TV, maybe that's not the best thing to do, right, because that work might stop.
Anyway, there is one bonus out of all of this, which is that I don't actually have to hear racist bigots outside comedy clubs anymore. Because all I have to do is just turn my hearing aids off and just smile at them, right? Am I right?
Ladies and gentlemen, Sajeela Kershi, eh? [applause] The last time I worked with Sajeela she could hear fine, so I'm just saying some people will do anything to get on a BBC show. [laughter] Are you ready for your next storyteller of the show?
Please, ladies and gentlemen, make some noise for Andy Duffy. [applause]
It was the summer of 2012. I know that because the London Olympics were on and I'd planned a visit to the open water swimming. I have Duchenne muscular dystrophy which means I could walk till I was 12 and then had to use a power chair when my muscles became weaker. I can't stand independently either, so I use my chair all the time. It's okay for getting around, but the battery doesn't always last, so if I'm out for more than a few hours I take my charger. I put my charger in a bag at the back of my chair. I have many bags of various shapes and sizes, and assortments of paraphernalia.
Most people use a normal toilet but since I can't stand or sit I carry a plastic bottle to pee in. Obviously I pride myself on having a large bottle. [laughter] That goes in its own rucksack with weird stuff like a really long straw. I can't lift a glass either, so it's great, though drinking beer through a straw has led to the occasional tipsiness in charge of a wheelchair and I have to greet people's outstretched hand with, "I'm sorry I can't shake your hand, but I'm pleased to meet you," before they think they've just met a miserable git and leave.
People don't realise this. I always have an assistant with me too because I can't turn around to reach my bags or get anything out of them. That's because I have metal rods in my back. People don't release this. The night before my story I'd been out at the theatre in Liverpool. My drama teacher was in a play and I'd been drinking with the cast. The barman took my backpack and put it on the back of my chair, which was nice, but it actually meant that I couldn't reach it until I got home.
Anyway, back to my trip to London. Once you reach Euston I visited the head offices of Graeae Theatre in Hoxton. We then went for a quick drink down the road at the Geffrye Museum. My mum was with me on this day and she always carries too much stuff, and she'd put her bags on the back of my chair as well, so there I was, knocking small toddlers out of the way. [laughter] A few of them cried. Their mums only apologised, telling them, "It's rude to point at the man in the wheelchair."
As we left the café and headed down the high street I wanted to put my jumper on. It was then that my mum realised my battery charger for my chair was missing. It had either been stolen or fallen off. So we decided to retrace our steps, only to discover that the receptionist at the Geffrye Museum was calling security. An electrical device had been found in a disabled toilet, [laughter] and they were planning to evacuate the building. After an embarrassed apology and reunited with my charger I made a quick exit to see the swimming in Hyde Park.
To be honest, it was a disappointment. I couldn't see much. Just wetsuits bobbing up and down like dolphins. There was no seating. I know I brought my own, but I can't see over other people. So we decided to head to a five star hotel. This is a fine place to run out of power and I try to do it whenever I can. [laughter] Reception staff are always keen to wave the PC flag in front of VIPs, so I plugged in and sat in the foyer enjoying the free drinks and Wi-Fi. [laughter]
With power restored I set off, but took a wrong turn. I was lost. I was somewhere in the back of Oxford Street but not quite sure how to reach the station, so I decided to stop the next person to come round the corner. As it happened that person was throwing traffic cones in the air and leaping about. He was clearly a happy man, and would surely advise me. Strangely he had four minders. They didn't want to help. They were too busy shouting, "Stop it Johnny." I know he could find Neverland, but Johnny Depp, the man himself was unable to help me this time. [laughter] He did, however, come over to greet me. He didn't care that I couldn't shake his hand. And even kissed my mum.
Within a few minutes he's disappeared leaving me to wonder if I'd dreamt it all. The look on my mum's face convinced me otherwise. [laughter]
Four hours later we returned home. Tired after a long day I went straight to bed.
The next morning I asked my personal assistant to pick up one of my backpacks. She picked up the one I'd taken to the theatre the night before, the one the barman had put on the back of my chair. When I looked inside I found it wasn't mine. It looked like mine but it wasn't mine. [laughter] It did contain a couple of really nice shirts though. [laughter]. Glasses. A famous actor's driving licence and the script he'd been working on. The barman had put the wrong backpack on to my chair.
We went straight to the theatre, took the backpack along with an apology card and a bottle of wine. The famous actor was relieved and delighted to be reunited with my identical bag.
Apparently, he wasn't interested in my mum's black stilettos or my plastic bottle to pee in. [applause]
Ladies and gentlemen will you please welcome to the stage Janine Hammond. [applause]
You're going to have to brace yourselves for this one because I'm not a performer so just lower your expectations. And brace yourself when I tell you I've lost my nipples. It's really annoying because nipples are really great aren't they? They feed your babies. They're little pleasure domes and they warn you when you need to wear a coat. [laughter] Well I don't get that warning obviously so I tend to get hypothermia during the winter months, but never mind.
I mean it's not all bad is it because the fleshy bits of a breast are surely the best bit aren't they except I've lost those as well. I know I'm so careless [laughter] it's really unfortunate isn't it? I often wonder where they are but I know they're floating in formaldehyde and I wonder if they miss me as much as I miss them. [laughter] Ah it's such a shame.
I have got something going on here. Those at the front might notice it, I don't know, but I have; it's not my socks in my bra just to let you know. I haven't got prosthetic breasts or anything or implants; hold on for this one - I've got flaps! Yeah I've got flaps. Now the reason I say that is I'm an ex-nurse and in the world of medicine we love abbreviations, we love acronyms, we love all that sort of thing; we haven't got time to say the big words.
So I've got TRAM flaps. Nothing to do with trams so that would be weird wouldn't it? Yeah no they're not like trams. They're called TRAM because TRAM stands for your trans rectal abdominis muscle and you've got two, so they make your six-pack those of you who…well I don't know if many in here have seen a six-pack. [laughter] But anyway it's part of your six-pack. I've only got a four-pack though because of two of my muscles are in my chest. Weird I know.
Before I had this operation I thought right. As a nurse I'd seen mastectomies so I thought well I want to know what's going on. I want to see the whole thing. So you can go online and I watched the three minute edited highlights. It was very exciting because you just get to see all the good bits, just in three minutes. And it basically takes two surgical teams to do the operation, so I've single-handedly drained the NHS in my local area of its funds because I took up two surgical teams in one operation.
So basically the top team take your breast off and the cancer, that's the key bit. And then the other team split you from hip to hip and take the whole front flap of your abdomen off. It's a lovely gory operation. And then they basically pull the muscles up with all their blood supply and nerve endings and then they just pad you out and make breasts. It's amazing.
Now the first time I had breast cancer it was triple negative but in those days it wasn't even called triple negative they just called in invasive cancer. So I was 32, my kids were little, I'd just started a new job and of course life's like that isn't it? So I was told I had invasive cancer and so I had a wide excision and removal of my lymph nodes because I did have positive lymph nodes.
So that leads me to my massive arm. My upper arm is so massive that I no longer buy clothes by clothes size. I have to look at the arm holes and find one that will fit my massive arm. And when assistants come and ask me, "Can I help you?" And I go, "Have you got anything for a massive arm?" And they sort of shuffle off as if to say, "Weirdo" which I am, it's fair enough, I mean I am.
So anyway I also had a radiotherapy burn because in those days radiotherapy wasn't as good as it is now. So I spent a lot of time with my friend packing it and asking her to look out for the oozing. So all my friends get great jobs; if you're friends with me you always get something that you have to look out for.
I finished my chemo that time on conference with work in Tenerife. I was just carrying on as if nothing has happened. Nothing's happened to me, let's carry on.
Fast forward 15 years and I find myself in the bad news room of my local hospital. Now you may not have ever seen a sign in a hospital that says 'Bad News Room This Way' you're correct. But as an ex-nurse I know there's rooms in hospitals that are a little less clinical.
So they take you in there if they're going to tell you something awful. It's got nice sofas and pictures. Well obviously as a nurse as soon as they show me in that room I know what's coming. And sure enough a different surgeon walks in this time, it's been 15 years. And he bounds in and he goes, "Well it's back!" And I thought well he's got a nice bedside manner hasn't he? [laughter] Thanks. Thanks mate.
So I knew what I wanted him to do because I'd had 15 years to think about it. So I said, "Can you do the operation bish, bash, bosh all in one go?" And he went, "Yeah, I can. I can do that." So 12 hours after being anaesthetised I awoke and I tell you something it does sting that operation. Oh it stings. So it takes a long time to get over. And you've got weird things happen to your body after this operation that they don't tell you about. So it feels like I've got a bowling ball in my stomach. It looks like I've got a bowling ball in my stomach but I've had scans and I definitely haven't got it, it's just crisps. [laughter] I know, weird.
The other thing is it feels like you've got a tight corset on. And unlike most of you that can go home and take your jeans off and go oh yeah, put your nice trackie bottoms on, which is what we do where I'm from. It makes no difference to me because I've still got the tight corset on which is so annoying. And the worst thing is because my muscles in my chest have been moved up into my breasts basically I can't sit up if you lie me flat on the ground. It's greatly amusing.
But I get abandoned on hospital trollies because obviously everyone's busy and they go, "Yeah you can get up now, love." And I'm trying to get off the trolley. And they find me about 20 minutes later like a dying fly on my back sort of screaming for help. I have thrown myself off hospital trolleys before now just to escape a hospital. So it's very weird.
This time round I had a different chemo. We like a selection. Brace yourselves for this one: I had FEC. Yes I know that's what they call it, it's FEC. It's 5FU epirubicin and cyclophosphamide, known as FEC. It's easier to say that isn't it. Now here's a fun fact: epirubicin makes your urine goes from a Portuguese Rosé to a nice Provençal Blush over a 48 hour period. Anyone fancy a glass of Rosé?" [laughter]
Honestly, the amount of Rosé I drank this last time I was having chemo it's unbelievable.
So I did try to go back to work. I work in a different industry now. And it was really tricky. I got a frozen shoulder and then I started getting terrible pains and joint stiffness. You can hear me coming actually I go clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk so I can't creep up on anyone anymore. Anyway I sort of had to go to the pain clinic and I've had lots of medication. But they suggested, "Why don't we do mindfulness?" and I thought ooh that will be good, I'll give that a go, that'll work.
But somehow trying to meditate with ten other people in what was effectively a storeroom with one person sprawled on their back with you having to lift your legs up so you don't put them down on his head it just didn't work for me. So I said to the psychologist, "This mindfulness stuff doesn't work for me" and she said, "Oh well let's think of something else that might help."
And I notice that I like to make up stories, I've got a weird imagination. And I ended up starting to write stuff. And I managed to get a place in the Liverpool Everyman Playhouse theatres on their Playwright's Programme. And that was really nice, and I put a play on not long ago, and I've got some stuff coming up in Manchester which is lovely.
But let's go back to my nipples because I'm not happy about something here. I said to my surgeon, "What about nipples?" And he said, "Oh they're a faff". A faff! That is what he said, they are a faff. And I thought you have just…you've spent 12 hours slicing and dicing me like the Bride of Chucky and then you put me together and then you say it's a faff! It's not right is it?
So he said, "Well I can do them but you know". So the registrar took me to one side and she said, "Janine, there's one thing you need to know. When you make nipples they have to really stick out when we make them because they do shrink back" so you're always like pointy. I was like, "Oh God, I can't be pointy." So I thought well I can't have them. So I looked at sort of 3D tattoos and I didn't like the look of them and they do wear off because they use medical dyes for that.
So I was given some prosthetic nipples, they're just stick on nipples, that's what they are. And I thought, do you know what I can't wear them. What if they come unstuck and work their way up? [laughter] And you're talking to someone and they're like, "Oh you've got a nipple on your neck, what's going on?" [laughter] That would be awful.
It would be worse if you were single and they got stuck on someone else. Can you imagine that? [laughter] "Hey doc, take a look at this. I didn't know you could get a nipple down there. What's happening?" It would be horrific wouldn't it?
So the only time I've ever worn my nipples is I've worn one nipple in the middle of my forehead and my do my David Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust impression to cheer myself up. And I do it quite regularly if I'm honest. [laughter]
So when I wrote this little play, I thought right I'm going to write for the first time about a female who's had my operation but she's single and has to reveal herself. Every time a relationship fails she's going to start again. And I thought that would be awful. So I thought I'd write about that. But in the middle of the play she has to stick the nipple on her forehead and does her best Ziggy.
Now most theatres don't stock prosthetic nipples. In fact they don't stock them at all. So my nipples get supplied for my actresses to do this. Which has meant a very exciting chapter in my life because I get emails now saying, "Janine, please can I have your nipples?" [laughter]
Yeah. And I like to open those emails on a packed train when I know someone is reading over my shoulder. [laughter] And I just open a few of them. I have several in my inbox. And they'll either move closer to me or you can see that they are really like, "Whoa, whoa you wouldn't have thought it with her would you?"
And this is honestly today someone is coming to collect my nipples - no word of a lie, I've got them with me - and they're taking them to Manchester so they can appear on another actress's head for a three day run. So I've no idea who she is. We've liaised on social media and I'm just going to hand my nipples over for an actress.
And I have to be honest I'm getting a bit resentful, I am. My nipples are appearing in theatres without me. [laughter] They're having a life of their own. They're neglecting me. In fact I think they're going to get an agent and they're going to dump me, I really do. So when I said to you I've lost my nipples. I have. I've lost them to cancer and I've lost them to the fickle world of showbusiness. [laughter] Thank you. [applause]
Okay, our next storyteller has never performed on stage before so I what I want is a lot of love, support for Reece Finnegan. [applause]
Thank you. Hello. So I'm blind, I'll get that out the way. Basically I feel like being lost and getting lost is pretty integral to being a blind person. I'm 23 now and I've been blind all my life. And I get lost everywhere, literally everywhere; clubs, tube stations. I got lost in the green room an hour ago and it's literally one room [laughter].
The story I'm telling today is actually about a time when I got lost in my brand new boss's house. So this was last year. It's a Saturday morning. I wake up a little bit hungover. I'm all by myself and I have a dead phone and none of my other possessions.
All I can remember from the night before is that I'd been out for some drinks with some new colleagues after work. And after a couple of bars one of them, Jay, who happened to be the boss's son, invites a couple of us back to his house in Kensington for some after drinks. So I go along to that. And then about nine hours later I wake up in this random place with no idea where I am and no sign of my colleagues anywhere.
So to give some context when you wake up in a new place as a visually impaired person it's a very unique situation, it's quite scary. I'd compare it to something like how maybe Christopher Columbus felt when he discovered the new world like minus the racism. [laughter] Or how Bear Grylls feels when he finds a new island or whatever except I don't have to drink my own piss this time. [laughter]
It's scary, it's disorientating and you have no idea what's around the next corner.
So there's probably a few questions at this point like what's the big deal, how hard is it to get out of a house? Why does your beard look so good when you only have 5% vision? Like how do you shave that? [laughter] The answer to the first… I don't have time to go into that but the answer to the first two is that this house was huge right, it was a mansion. It was four floors, just tons of rooms, really hard to navigate. And believe me when you're visually impaired trying to get out of a disabled toilet without feeling up the changing table is hard enough [laughter] so this was a struggle, this was a massive struggle.
So I'm in this room. I'm in a bit of a rush because I'm trying to get home for my little nephew's birthday, so I'm in a bit of a rush. As I said I've got none of my stuff, I need to charge my phone, I need to get an Uber. So I get out of bed and I come to the first door which happens to be an ensuite toilet. So I think perfect, I do need the toilet. And where better to plan an escape route than on the toilet.
So I'm sitting there for like five/ten minutes maybe and then suddenly I hear this voice coming from quite close by, like this unfamiliar female voice saying, "Hey Reece, it's Jay's mum. Jay told me you were staying and I just wanted to see if you were okay, if you needed anything 'cos I'm flying off to LA in five minutes?" [laughter]
So the advice in this situation I think from a blind person would be if you're offered help you should probably take that when it's offered because you have no idea when that help is going to get offered again.
I didn't do that. I was so shocked and awkward to hear someone so close by when I thought I was just casually on the toilet that all I could do was kind of squeak back, "No I'm fine, thank you. All good." So that was mistake number one. I basically wasted my only lifeline out of the situation.
To make matters worse when I stood up and pulled my trousers up etc I was feeling around for a sink and I found another door to the bathroom, a door which had been open the entire time and a door which Jay's mum had been standing in whilst she was talking to me. [laughter] So not only was this not an ensuite toilet, my new mate's mum had just been talking to me with my pants down on the toilet. [laughter]
I don't even think she had business in LA I think she was just flying there to avoid the unbearable awkwardness of the situation. [laughter]
So anyway dignity at an all-time high obviously I thought do you know what? What have I got to lose. I'll try and find my stuff and I'll try and get out as quick as possible. Jay's mum has already gone so that's that gone.
So I come out of this new door and I come into a hallway which has just so many doors come on to it like an absolute labyrinth; I've no idea where I'm going. So I just kind of edge in one direction just down the hallway. I did consider at one point some kind of like Hansel & Gretel style breadcrumb trail with like I'd unroll some toilet paper behind me or something but that felt a bit weird and I didn't want to do that. So I thought do you know what? I'll carry on.
I got to some stairs, nice big spiral staircase, which I wasn't really expecting. Also, for the record, spiral staircases - the worst form of staircase. Why would you ever build one of them? Anyway. So I'm going up there and I'm kind of congratulating myself because it's going quite well so far, minus the toilet incident, but it's going all right. Until I reach the top of the stairs and I clang into something like giant and metal.
So I stumble back a little bit fully expecting some kind of 'Home Alone' trap to just unleash itself on me. It turned out to be a massive suit of armour just leaning against the wall. [laughter] It's not what you expect to find when you're just strolling through a house but anyway. It kind of dawns on me at this point this is my boss's house, there's a lot of expensive stuff around. I've only been at this job for two weeks as well so I'm pretty sure that rampaging through priceless ornaments isn't going to do me any favours at this job.
So I think do you know what? I've hit that and then a couple of like dangerously wobbling vases on a shelf later I think I'm not doing this anymore, I need to retreat back to the safety of the room. I'll wait for someone to come and rescue me.
The only problem is I'd gone too fast so when I tried to retrace my steps I found myself in a completely different part of the house; just new doors, new corridors, new spiral staircases. I had no idea where I was.
So eventually I found myself in a cloakroom so I was feeling my way around there; just coats and bags. The biggest cloakroom I've ever seen in my life - bigger than every room in my house, and I hear noises from outside which sounded a bit like footsteps. So I think okay someone can help me maybe.
The other thing is though I kind of filled with panic because I don't know about other visually impaired people but I don't really like not having my symbol cane. I carry a symbol cane, I don't really like not having it on me if I'm meeting new people just because it avoids awkwardness like if I miss a handshake; it avoids awkward questions like, "Who are you? Why are you in my house?" [laughter] I didn't have it on me unfortunately.
So I just kind of very sheepishly came out of the cloakroom like hands up like I promise I'm not burgling you. It wasn't a person actually, it turned out to be a cat. [laughter]
So I'm not religious at all but I think was an absolute miracle, like a divine animal sent from the disability friendly gods; they saw my time of need and they sent me a messenger because this cat, it brushes past my leg and it kind of leads me down a new corridor which I don't think I'd have seen by myself because it was quite dimly lit, and it has a little bell round its collar, so very helpful.
I follow this cat and I go into a new room which turns out to be a massive, beautiful kitchen. In there I find a housekeeper who's very confused to see me but she was very friendly. And she pointed me to all of my stuff just sitting there on the kitchen table; my bag, my symbol cane, my charger - everything I needed. So I nearly collapsed with relief, I was so happy.
I charged my phone. I got out of there.
So yeah it does have a happy ending. I made it to my nephew's birthday on time. I got out of the house independently with a little bit of assist from the miracle cat obviously. [laughter] Even better, later on I found out that my boss found another one of my colleagues downstairs passed out in his pants on the sofa. [laughter] So compared to him I didn't do too badly. [laughter] [applause]
Thank you so much.
Make some noise for everyone you've seen today.
[applause and cheering]
Keep that applause going while I read the names. You have seen Sajeela Kershi.
[applause and cheering]
and Reece Finnegan.
My name's Chris McCausland. Thanks for being amazing guys.
Cheers. Goodnight. Thank you.