The Ballad of Bernie the Blunt!
Bernie was fed up with her lazy husband Earl who was always making mean comments about her weight. But when he read her secret diary entry on her iPad, he realised HE was the one who needed to change. I spoke to her and wrote her brilliantly funny and inspiring story for Take a Break magazine...
"I stepped off the bus and stumbled into the tattoo shop, hand in hand with my new fella.
‘We want each other’s names done,’ I told the tattooist.
‘Come on in,’ she said.
Earl and I had spent the day in the pub and after a few too many, I’d decided I wanted his name on my wrist forever.
I lay on the bed and said: ‘We’d like the day we met underneath.’
When I gave the tattooist the date, her eyes bulged.
‘You only met two weeks ago?’ she said.
We both nodded, laughing.
I’d met Earl on New Year’s Eve and as the clock struck midnight, I’d lunged in to kiss him.
‘Wow,’ he said.
‘Happy New Year,’ I grinned.
Now we’d made our love permanent and couldn’t stop smiling as we compared our tattooed wrists.
A few weeks later, we were in my kitchen when Earl said: ‘Shall we get married?’
‘Yeah, why not!’ I replied.
Just ten weeks after meeting, we tied the knot at a registry office, surrounded by friends. Then we had a proper knees-up, with champagne and tapas for everyone.
Days later, I was sitting on the sofa crying over nothing.
‘You’re pregnant,’ Earl said.
‘What? No I’m not,’ I said.
But I couldn’t get Earl’s words out of my head, so I went and bought a pregnancy test.
Back home, I did it then glared at the stick.
‘It’s positive,’ I said. ‘It must be wrong.’
I bought four more but each of them showed the same result.
‘Told you,’ Earl said.
I was stunned. Kids weren’t in my life plan.
But as my bump grew, I began to get excited.
‘Cor, you’re gaining some weight aren’t you,’ Earl said.
‘Course I am, I’m pregnant you idiot,’ I said.
I was annoyed, especially because Earl knew about my weight issues. Before we’d met, a weakness for anything smothered in cheese had caused me to tip the scales at 16 stone.
I hadn’t been that big since, yet every time I looked in the mirror I saw a fat person staring back at me.
I always tried to be healthy, but soon I was craving crackers slathered in butter, pasta and chocolate.
By my due date, I’d gained four stone.
‘You’re huge,’ Earl said.
I rolled my eyes.
It wasn’t like I could say anything to get my own back.
Earl was a fitness freak and as slim as they came. He was vain too. It took me ten minutes to get ready to go out, but Earl would spend hours doing his hair and deciding what to wear.
I had to admit though, my hubby was easy on the eyes.
Three weeks overdue, I gave birth to a boy, Caden.
Afterwards, I was determined to shake off my baby weight so I started a strict diet and was soon back in shape.
When Caden was three we had a daughter, Frankie. I began another fad diet to shed the three stone I’d gained, but Earl was quick to criticise.
‘I can see your belly through your top,’ he said.
Thankfully I’d learnt not to take his cruel words to heart.
When the kids were six and three, Earl and I left our home in Gloucestershire and moved to Spain. It was something we had always dreamed of doing.
With the sun always shining and the beach on our doorstep, it felt like one long holiday. We also loved the local cuisine, combined with a round or three of drinks.
One day, Earl was watching Breaking Bad on TV and as I looked at him sprawled out on the sofa with his gut hanging out, I gasped.
‘Blooming ‘eck, look at that,’ I whispered.
The svelte, muscly man I had fallen in love with had let himself go. Earl’s love of beer and greasy tapas dishes had turned his abs to flab, without him even realising it.
I gave a satisfied sigh.
It had always been Earl picking on me, but now he was the one with the spare tyre.
Time for a poem, I thought.
I grabbed my electronic tablet and headed upstairs.
I loved to write funny poems in my diary, as a way of de-stressing and getting things off my chest.
I sat down, opened my memo app and as I pictured Earl slobbing out downstairs, I let inspiration take over…
These shit soppy love songs, they do make me laugh,
They don’t speak of nose hair or rims round the bath.
Or piss on the toilet seat, hair in the brush,
Or pimples or stretch marks or syphilis or thrush.
No songs on endless rows about pointless shit,
That often your partner will act like a tit.
And **** you off so much that you want him gone,
They just speak of bullplop, how he is ‘The One’.
Yeah, he is ‘The One’ who stinks out the loo,
When he’s in there for hours, taking a poo.
Who leaves off the toothpaste and shampoo lid,
Who’s grumpy and moany and acts like a kid.
He is the useless, overweight loafer,
‘The One’ who farts loudly whilst sat on the sofa.
Hogging the remote whilst he clips his toenails,
Watching football, or cop shows or world’s toughest jails.
‘The One’ who is constantly adjusting his balls,
Oh he is ‘The One’, Christ yes, he’s my ‘all’!
My world and my everything, he is my life,
I wish I’d said ‘no’ when he said "be my wife"!"
So when they all sing about meeting ‘The One’,
Wait till they see what comes out of his bum!
I chuckled to myself and planned to show it to Earl but after reading it through, I decided better of it.
I went downstairs and popped my tablet on the kitchen table before going to the loo.
Moments later, I returned to find Earl leaning over my precious electronic diary, his mouth gaping open in shock.
A horrible sinking feeling came over me as he turned to look at me, his face beetroot red.
‘What the hell is this?’ he shrieked.
‘It’s meant to be tongue in cheek,’ I said, trying to contain my laughter.
‘It’s not funny,’ he said.
We’d always had a fiery relationship, but this time my wicked sense of humour had caught me out.
Earl was clearly very offended.
‘Some of it was just written to make it rhyme,’ I said.
‘What about the rest of it?’ he said.
Then he stormed off.
Throughout our marriage, we had always joked that Earl had the looks and I had the brains. But now I’d made him feel like he had neither.
Over the next few days, I did some serious grovelling. But Earl still looked hurt and I was riddled with guilt.
Then, a week later, he stood in front of the bedroom mirror and said: ‘You were right.’
‘What?’ I said.
He grabbed his paunch with both hands.
‘Look at me,’ he said. ‘I’m going to make you eat your words, you watch.’
Next day, he started exercising hard.
While he hiked up mountains, I filled our cupboards with healthy food. Then I remembered a bodybuilding competition I’d read about online and wondered if Earl might fancy it.
When he got home, I showed him the details.
The prize was $100,000.
‘I’m gonna do it,’ he said.
I took ‘before’ photos of him, then he signed up. It made him more determined than ever.
Soon he was pushing himself to the limit, running miles to the next town, carrying weights in his backpack.
Just watching Earl inspired me to give my yo-yo dieting the boot. Instead, I embarked on a long-term healthy eating plan, unlike any quick fix I’d done before.
Three months later, I’d lost a stone and a half. But whereas I had just shaped up a bit, Earl had lost three stone and gone from slob to heartthrob.
Whenever we left our home in Granada, Spain, I delighted in watching women’s heads turn for him in the street.
Even the kids, Caden, nine, and Frankie, six, were impressed how ripped their dad was.
‘You haven’t got a bit of fat on you,’ Caden said.
Earl was disappointed when he didn’t win the bodybuilding competition, but he continued to train.
One evening, he took my hand.
‘I’m sorry for criticising you,’ he said. ‘I had absolutely no right to. I love you just the way you are.’
I smiled and said: ‘I love you too. Just don’t go getting too skinny.’
Now we’re both feeling great and recently went on a family bike ride along the beach. I really enjoyed it and though I’ll never be as crazy about fitness as Earl, we have found a new shared passion.
The words in my diary were harsh but I don’t regret them, because they gave Earl a kick up the bum and our marriage the boost it needed. Now we’re as loved up as we were when we got our tattoos.
And whenever I need cheering up, I just read through my poem again – in secret of course!"
Earl Stewart, 49, said: ‘I can’t say I wasn’t a tad p*ssed off when I read Bern’s poem, but everything happens for a reason. I suppose I have been a bit harsh in the past about her weight, but it was mostly for laughs. Now we are motivating each other to be healthy and are definitely much happier.’