Flossie Cheeks Will Rule The World!!!

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Well, it’s been a couple of weeks now and I’ve only just got round to writing about my amazing experience.  That’s very bad of me but, anyway, here it is now – so read on…..

Sometime last year, October I think, someone I knew from burlesque classes told me she was organising a burlesque evening to raise money for the local stroke unit.  She had had a stroke herself ten years ago, at the very young age of 24 and she wanted to give back something to the people and the unit that had been so good to her.  I didn’t know Anna that well at that time, I had helped out with lifts sometimes to and from class but that was about it but I wanted to help her.  It sounded like a colossal feat she was trying to pull off, with no experience of putting anything like this on before.  Neither had I but I wanted to help so I offered.  I thought maybe she would need help with phone calls, or fundraising or on the night, I don’t know really.  What I was not expecting was for her to ask me to perform a dance with her on the night!!!

And so began the adventure…..

Anna had a brilliant idea for a routine that involved her being in a wheelchair and being persuaded to get up and dance by her nurse, a sort of ‘healing’ process if you will.  I was to be the naughty nurse.  Yup, I thought. I can do that. He he.

Together we planned the costumes – Anna making the dresses with the help of a dressmaker friend (on account of her only having the use of one arm!) and me sewing all the fiddly bits on and making our bras and the rest of it.  I had to learn how to insert foam cups inside the dresses to keep them up, I made a nurses apron and covered our bras in sparkle and satin.  I sewed glittery things and I attached tassels to knickers.  It was great!  It felt like all my evenings were spent either sewing or practising our dance.

We choreographed the dance ourselves and had such a laugh along the way, coming up with ideas and rehearsing hard.  We booked  a studio and we filmed ourselves dancing.  We texted constantly, we watched clips of burlesque performers on YouTube.

As time went on it got more stressful for Anna who was negotiating with people, organising the event, from liaising with the venue and compere, sorting out the sounds, finding someone to do the table decorations, getting raffle prizes, selling tickets and generally being thrown in at the deep end.  Harder for her than some with the added problems her stroke had left her with.  Me, I just kept sewing and making Anna laugh.  That seemed to be my job, not a bad one I thought.

And then it was the evening of the event.  We had everything planned to the last detail.  Anna wanted it to be a surprise.  The rest of the evening was full of professional acts, all amazing and gorgeous or funny and quirky but all professional. Anna and I were to come on right at the end with an introduction from Sadie, the compere.  Nobody was to know, except a few who needed to be in on it.

And so we did it.



We performed to 200 people.



And it was AMAZING.  The support from everyone was fantastic, and we felt like stars.  I don’t think either of us were under any illusions that we were Dita but that was never the plan.  We were two amateurs, with various physical limitations between us, performing a comedy burlesque routine and we pulled it off!

Along the way, I learned to make costumes and that it isn’t so easy to make something that can be whipped off just at the right moment, particularly when one of you only has the use of one arm, I learned to put into practice all the tips and skills i have found out from the various classes and workshops I’ve attended as part of the Burlesque Jems, and I found out a bit about putting on an event.  Most of all though….I found a new friend.  Anna and I hit it off from day one and we had such fun and so many laughs doing this.  I don’t suppose we would have become such friends if it wasn’t for this and it really was one of the best parts of it all for me.  Anna is an inspiration.  She is strong and determined and she doesn’t let her disabilities hold her back. Those of you who know me, know I have a positive attitude to life and Anna is one of those people too.


Obviously, we want to do it all again now so…..


And for those of you who haven’t seen us, here is the link:





Last week I went to see my consultant for a discussion about what is happening with my boob.  To give those of you the background to this post – I had breast cancer 14 years ago.  I had a lumpectomy (some of the tissue removed but not all) and radiotherapy.  Five years later I had the other breast reduced to try and match the two up (BIG mistake in my opinion, looking back, but I was guided by the surgeon obviously).  This was still not successful due to the tissue on my right breast being taken from above the nipple, thus inducing a ‘dent’.  Making the other smaller didn’t really make much difference.

I then had an implant put in, which failed to ‘drop’ into position and had to walk around with a most peculiar shaped breast, which I fondly referred to as my ‘third tit’ or ‘the tit on my shoulder’.  It took me two years to get this rectified, and a complaint to my local trust who had led me to believe I would get some new treatment which wasn’t actually available to them.  Eventually I was referred elsewhere to a proper plastic surgeon who promised he would be able to give me back a matching pair.  This involved a big operation, taking tissue from the stomach and transplanting it into the breast, along with micro surgery to establish a whole new blood supply to this tissue.  The bonus was that I got a tummy tuck so, it all sounded like the perfect solution.   The dodgy implant was removed and I had that surgery.  Still, the stubborn scar on that breast refused to allow anything to lift it.  I now had an elipse shaped skin graft which had been taken from my tummy and didn’t match my breast skin tone, and completely scarred up and unmatching breasts.  They said they could fix it.  They inserted another implant.  This helped a little but they still couldn’t fill the gap, as it were.  More surgery, they said. This time, just a little fat injection from my thigh tissue into the breast, day surgery, so nothing major.  I was put on the waiting list.

I’m still on that list, ten months later.  I started reconstructive surgery in 2005.

So I went to see the consultant to see what he had to say, since I had been seen only by his team since the big surgery. He is one of the top ten in his field apparently, so I knew he’d be able to help.

What he told me was not what I wanted to hear.  He said that there is nothing else they can do.  Radiotherapy has altered the cells and each time I am operated on I run the risk of infection, more so than normal.  He said that all the surgery I can have I have had.  He said they can still do the minor op but it isn’t realistically going to make my right boob look like my left one.

And then he said something that hurt a lot.  He told me I have become fixated on this boob and that I need to accept it for how it looks and get on with my life.

Tears pricked me as he said that. I felt like I was being told off. I felt like a time waster, a malingerer and someone who was just being vain.

Driving away from the hospital, his words sank in.

I HAVE become fixated.  I AM obsessed with getting it to look right.  And I AM running my life around surgery dates.

So I reframed what he had said.  I thought about it. My breasts aren’t the same.  They look different to each other. But so do a lot of other women’s who haven’t even had surgery.  They are healthy. They are a nice handful. They look fine when  I have clothes on. I have two.  They are mine.  I will love them. Both of them. I might love the left one a little bit more, a favourite, so to speak.  But I will LIKE the right one and treat it with respect.

Earlier this year, I performed on stage on my own, dancing burlesque to a crowd of people, some I knew, a lot I didn’t.  This was my challenge to myself, not to stand on stage, but to SHOW my breasts.  I wanted to LIKE them but I thought I was still able to have more cosmetic surgery at that point.

However, it was very therapeutic to do this


Yes, I stripped to my tassels and I twirled.

Now, who needs a matching pair when you can do THAT?!!

First ever CABARET NIGHT!!!!

Last Saturday night approximately fifty women, all shapes and sizes and ranging in age from early twenties to mid sixties, took to the stage to perform in the first ever Burlesque Jems student showcase, at the Triangle Club in Chelmsford, Essex.
The event was organised to raise funds for Chelmsford Women’s Aid but it was also an opportunity for the women who attend the four classes across Hertfordshire and Essex to perform together for the first time.
The evening was expertly compered by the lovely Sonia Cakebread and the dancing kicked off with a wonderful solo performance by Jem Ayres, or ‘Mama Burlesque’ as she is known to her ladies.  Following on from this, there were performances from each of the different classes as well as from the strip club, who meet once a month, and some of the ladies who attended a weekend residential earlier in the year.  A duet was performed by Faye Wade and Lindsey Barrell Dixon and there was a wonderfully entertaining solo by Jo Lawrence.
Each performance was very different to the last. The opening number was Good Girl, a feel good dance that some of the women had only learned the previous week, in a special one-off workshop.  This was followed by Harlow’s Lola, which changed the mood to sultry and sexy.  Candyman, performed by Bishops Stortford, was sassy and fun and Big Spender, by the Ware ladies, was bold and brassy.   The Chelmsford ladies performed Wanna Make Love to You with their usual confidence and the residential class had the audience spellbound with a powerful performance of Feeling Good. Some ladies just performed one number, others were in almost every one, depending on how many classes they are involved with.
As a performer myself last night, I thought the evening was spectacular. I have got to know women from all the classes over the nine months I have been attending my local class, some just online via the Facebook page but others by going along to support various performances at local events.  Saturday night was the first time we had all been together and the atmosphere was amazing.
Women who never dreamed they would be on stage dancing in front of an audience (me included!), were strutting their stuff with confidence and shimmying as if they were professional dancers.  Everyone supported each other with hugs and kisses and words of encouragement and congratulations.  It was a beautiful sight, all these women, dressed in their corsets and bustles, sparkles and feathers, both on stage and off, mingling with the audience and dancing to the disco in between performances.  The emphasis was not on technique, it was all about fun.  And fun it was!
The Burlesque Jems is a unique community of women, brought together by Jem over the last year or so and held together by each other. Most of the women have never performed before and many have felt uncomfortable about their bodies for all sorts of reasons. Burlesque Jems enables women to confront their demons and to overcome their inhibitions to allow them to feel confident and self assured.  Some women attend just because they love the whole vibe that goes with burlesque but, whatever the motivation to come, everyone loves our burlesque community!
The evening was a resounding success and raised over £900 for Women’s Aid, selling 130 tickets in all.  However, as well as the success of the show as a fundraising event, the evening was hailed as a major achievement for the organiser, Jem Ayres.  Little over a year ago, Jem started the first burlesque class in Chelmsford.  Shortly after, the second class in Bishops Stortford started running, followed by a class in Harlow and one in Ware.  There has been a very successful Glamourpuss residential weekend, with another planned next year, and regular boudoir photo shoots and vintage hair and make up sessions, as well as nipple tassel workshops.
Last night’s cabaret was the first of what will hopefully become an annual event. I certainly hope so!
For more information or if you want to get involved contact Jem on 07903 188 404 or jemayres@yahoo.co.uk
I think the expression on my face says it all!!! Such fun!

Performance legs at the ready!!!

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Tonight at our burlesque class we had someone videoing us to promote the classes.  Everyone made a big effort to dress up and I thought we all looked fabulous!  It was also a lot of fun, as usual, with long black gloves being flung around and general silliness, amongst the serious business of learning the dance.  Pretty much how it is every week!

It is getting pretty exciting at class too – in just under six weeks we will be performing in our first ever ‘student showcase’ night.  I love the classes so much I now attend two a week – so I’m learning two routines!  Some of the ladies have also been on a residential weekend and they have another dance to perform and we have the strip club performing as well!  Now, when I say ‘strip club’ please don’t jump to conclusions.  I don’t go to these classes but they are all about feeling good about yourself, not getting your kit off (although that is obviously involved!).  I asked some of the ladies to explain to me just what it is that goes on in these classes:

First of all, it’s about the tease.  Apparently the clothes stay on for most of the time – the emphasis is on ‘hinting’ that they might come off.  However, much more than this, it is about becoming confident in your own skin.  One woman told me it is about facing your demons.  The women explore the thoughts and feelings that hold them back and it is a journey of self discovery as much as anything.

Like I said, I don’t attend these classes but I can see how amazing they must be for the women who do.

So, anyway, we have our cabaret coming up…..imagine dancing on stage in your frillies??  No, neither could I before I joined the classes!!!  I am not, and never have been a dancer.  But, I’ll be up there, strutting my stuff, with a whole bunch of other women who probably feel exactly the same.   And, we will be amazing because we have found our inner divas!

It just goes to prove how bloody wonderful Burlesque is……



(that’s not ME in the gloves, I hasten to add!!!!)

Why you should learn how to shimmy….continued!

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Last night I went to the flat of one of the ladies who goes to the same class as me. As there was no class this week a few of us decided to get together for a practise. Along with myself, there was my daughter and one other lady. Age range, 29-50+.

Our practise session went well, it helps to go over some of the more difficult moves with others and we all felt quite pleased with ourselves.

In between practising, we chatted.

We all agreed that we have to be ‘selective’ with whom we share our burlesque. All of us know people who are a little bit ‘surprised’ that we do this dancing. Why is this?

Burlesque is associated with something rather seedy, it seems. Nice girls don’t do burlesque! However, our classes are full of lovely ladies! They are certainly not seedy or hookers!

Burlesque in its true form is art.  Yes, the dances can be seductive and a bit naughty but there is nothing distasteful about Burlesque.  It is glamorous and it is sexy.  It isn’t degrading or shameful.

Our classes are fun, they are uplifting and they help women to feel good about themselves, in all sorts of ways. Many of the women who join the class have had terrible experiences and have low self-esteem or lack self-confidence. Burlesque empowers these women by helping them to make positive life changes through their new-found confidence. I, for one, have seen women blossom as the classes have progressed.

How is this seedy? Or something to hide?

Those people who find it distasteful either don’t know what burlesque is or they have very narrow views.

I, for one, am proud to be part of it and I know my class mates are too. We aren’t call girls, or strippers and we aren’t degrading women.

We are a group of women who love to dance.

In frillies.

Got a problem with that?

Why you should learn how to shimmy…….


At the beginning of this year, I started burlesque dance classes.  I wanted some form of exercise that didn’t involve a treadmill or hours of torture on the cross trainer.  I happened, by chance, to see a new class being advertised locally – burlesque!  I was intrigued!  I already loved the whole burlesque thing and owned a couple of corsets but I had never thought of dancing.  I’m not a dancer, I never have been…but I signed up for the taster session anyway.  

It was fun!!!  And although I was under no illusions that I looked like a professional dancer, I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

Over the year, I’ve continued the classes, only having to miss one course because of my surgery.  I hated not being there, I missed my weekly ‘fix’.

Just recently, I took a big step and attended a tassel twirling workshop.  Yes, I got my breasties out!  With tassels, obviously!  After a two-hour intensive workshop, I am proud to say I can twirl ’em to the right, twirl ’em to the left AND twirl ’em in different directions at the same time!!! Amazing!!!  Even more amazing for me as my surgery was breast surgery, the final operation after years and years of surgery.  My boobs are, quite frankly, a MESS!!  I felt quite apprehensive about ‘getting them out’ even if it was just with a bunch of women…but I needn’t have worried.  The class was fun, relaxed and exhilarating all at the same time.

That weekend, I truly understood burlesque, I think.

I’ve now signed up to do a second class every week and in October I’m going to be performing in our first ever CABARET!!!!!!

My fellow ladies are all such lovely women and our tutor, Jem, is more than just our tutor….she’s the ‘leader’ of the wonderful burlesque community that she has created.

I still look ridiculous when I dance.  My various problems mean I just can’t do some of the moves like others can.  But, when I dance, in my head….I’m gorgeous.

And THAT’S what it’s all about.

Are you LISTening? Then I’ll begin…..

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Having just said I wanted to write about more serious stuff on my blog, I just needed to update you on a few things first.  I’ve written a list:

1. Burlesque dancing

It’s going well. I am still rubbish at it, I will never master the art of shimmying whilst dipping and I am more Rita von Cheese than Dita von Teese but that doesn’t matter.  It’s fun, the girls are lovely and I get to wear frilly stuff.  There is a possibility I will even perform later this year with the group!!!!

2. Italian classes

Yup, finished the classes and have been to Italy since.  I wasn’t sure how much I would use the stuff we learned in class.  I didn’t feel the need to ask anyone where the museum was or what time the next train to Milan left.  However, I found that the basics I did learn gave me the confidence to try and speak the language and to ask the locals how to say the things I didn’t know.  I’m pretty much fluent now…… And Italy was beautiful, as always

3. Gym and my personal trainer

Oh forget that.  I never intend to set foot in a gym again as long as I live

4. Transport

I got a new car.  Well, not brand new but new to me.  Her name is Bunty and she is a Mini.  I’ve never had the inclination to name a car before but I do actually love this one.  And she goes!!!

I am sure I have more to tell you – but I won’t do it now.  I’ll save it for next time

And anyway, I am just in the middle of writing a list on things I need to do

What I Love #1


I think I can include this next post under the LOVE heading.  It is, after all, something I love…..It could have fitted in nicely with last month’s theme too though, of motivation.  But I wasn’t actually doing it then so it will be fine here…..

What am I on about?


Those people who know me well may have had to read that a couple of times to make sure they hadn’t misread it.   You didn’t. I said EXERCISE.  I love EXERCISE.

For years, I have found it hard to keep myself motivated to do anything physically taxing.  I have been known to park as near as possible to anywhere, to avoid walking and I positively hated the gym.

But, something happened last month. I saw the light.  And now, I am a keep fit convert.  

A Born Again Exerciser.

I’ve had phases of doing different types of exercise, it’s true.  I enjoy badminton and I don’t mind swimming (apart from the getting changed and the getting in and out of the pool. Oh, and the swimming). But recently, something has changed.

I took up a new hobby, burlesque dancing.  I’ve only been twice but I’ve found my ‘thing’.  I love it because, not only do you prance around in a provocative way, looking alluring and sexy (in my head, in my head, ok??) but you also get to wear frou frou outfits, with feathers and lace and SPARKLY bits.  What could be more fun??  I don’t really care about the dancing bit, I just LOVE the attire!  But the dancing is the exercise.  So I’ve cracked it.

However, the more surprising thing, for me, is that I LOVE the gym now.  Well, maybe not the gym exactly, but my personal training sessions.  This love of training was sparked by a television series that is on currently, Fat Fighters (not Fat Losers as I previously wrote. Oops!).  Prior to this, I paid to have a trainer but I dreaded going.  Watching the programme, I was suddenly inspired.  And I texted my trainer to sign up again.  I now go religiously every Saturday morning, a time that suits me.  I realised that planning to go after work was the reason I hated it.  It’s too late for me and the traffic meant I was always stressing about making it in time.  I now get to have a little lie in on a Saturday before going to the gym and waking myself up properly.  It’s great!

But the main point of this post really is that I have a totally different attitude towards exercise.  Instead of being something I HAVE to do to be healthy or lose weight, it is something I do because I WANT to….

I love that

(That’s not actually me in the cocktail glass.  But it could be, one day!)

2012 so far….


Buona Sera (practising my Italian)

Well, it’s the end of a very interesting and pleasant week.  I have taken up a new challenge , the Italian class, which has given me something to focus on and it reminded me how much I love languages and learning new things, which made me feel good.

I have had a very rewarding week at work with some lovely, positive outcomes for the young people I work with.  Which makes me very happy.

This morning, I saw the most wonderful sight on my way to an appointment.  I drove past a field of horses, probably about a dozen and possibly a mixture of ponies and horses (I’m not really a horsey person so I can’t tell the difference – ponies seem a bit fluffier to me and smaller but that’s all I know).  Anyway, I had to pull over and watch them as they were so entertaining.  They were chasing each other, frolicking, playing and just generally having fun.  I wished I had my camera with me and I will definitely go back there to take some photos or film them at play.  That made me happy too.

I have also decided to give up on going grey.  I have been growing out HALF my hair for a while now, to see what it looks like ‘au naturale’ (blimey, she speaks French too!).  When I say half, I don’t actually mean left vs right.  I have a (dyed) pink/purple fringe and I used to have dark brown for the rest of it.  This bit, I have left to grow naturally.  After several trims, it is pretty much its natural colour now.  Which is a rather unattractive mish mash of brown, grey and silver, in no particular pattern.  There are just ‘clumps’ of different colours.  It isn’t a good look.  The grey isn’t healthily glowing either.  It’s matte.  So, today I have decided to end the experiment and revert to dying the lot again.  It may not look natural but it certainly looks better than the current faded effort…..

Tomorrow I start back at the gym and get myself back on track there.  I’ve just made enquiries about a Burlesque dance class too so that may well be another on my list of projects this year.

And I get my new car radio fitted.  It has been awful with nothing to listen to other than the sound of the engine this week.

So far, I’m liking 2012 🙂

I expect I shall look something like this when I am doing the burlesque dancing…..