Unparliamentary Language: Melanie Onn
Agnes Chambre sits down with parliamentarians to find out more about the human side of politics. This week, Melanie Onn on First Dates, bad luck with pets and cutting her own hair
What were you like at school?
When I first went to primary school, in north London, I think I was very quiet and shy. I used to pretend to go to sleep at after school club and watch other people playing, which is a bit strange. But then I moved back to Grimsby when I was seven and came out of my shell a little bit more. I don’t think I was very academic but I did better as I got older.
What mistakes did you make when you were younger?
I moved out of home when I was very young, when I was just 16 or 17. It’s all worked out fine obviously but probably I shouldn’t have done that.
Why did you do it?
I lived with my great aunt and she brought me up. There were two generations difference in our ages and things just got very tense. The relationship broke down quite badly and I didn’t speak to her for years and years afterwards and I look back – she’s passed away now – and that was wasted time. I shouldn’t be so stubborn.
What is the best present you’ve ever been given?
My mum bought me a car for £150; that was pretty cool. There was a massive adrenaline rush getting in that car.
Did the car work?
Yeah, it lasted a good eight months before I took it to the garage and they said ‘you really shouldn’t be driving this’.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I don’t think I had a very fixed idea. I knew I wanted to do something that I felt would be respected in some way. Something that would be useful but I didn’t really have a very clear idea of what it was. Career advisers suggested I should be a landscaper or a gardener because I quite like being outdoors. But there is nothing I would rather do less than be a gardener because I kill everything, I can’t even keep my house plants alive.
Have you killed any pets?
Oh yeah. Fish, gerbils, they’ve all gone by the wayside.
How did they die?
Well it’s the same with my son at the moment, and this job doesn’t help because I’m away half the week.
Hang on, your son is still alive?
My son is still alive; my son’s pets are not. Is that what it sounded like? That I’ve just killed off my kid? No…but my son is very keen on having a pet. My cat that I had for years and years ran away two years ago. Then our dog had to be put down earlier this year. He was desperate to have a pet, so we bought a hamster and the bloody thing escaped. It would go behind the skirting boards, so I ended up ripping out all of the skirting boards in one of the bathrooms and by the time I lured it out with food and water and got it back in the cage, it only lasted another couple of weeks and then it had a heart attack.
I know it’s quite awful, isn’t it? Then I got a replacement, thinking ‘that wasn’t a very good one, we’ll get a better one next time’ and I gave it to my cousin to look after. I thought it was remarkably still so I picked it up. There was a reason it was remarkably still.
Did you tell your son the replacement was the same one?
Did I spray paint it and make it look exactly the same? No. That would have been a step too far.
What’s something you’ve done once that you’ll never do again?
Cut my own hair. In 1988 the girls in my gym team were rocking a scraped back half pony tail look with a little centre fringe. I so wanted their cool hair, but mine was in the wrong style. To try and get it, I waited until my Auntie was out at bingo and grabbed the scissors. I snipped away at the right of my fringe, then the left. I struggled to get it an even length. As it got shorter I eventually decided the only way to get it the same length either side was to shave it. So I did. I suffered weeks and weeks of embarrassment from the big reveal in front of the whole class to the spikey regrowth before I could start to live it down. Never again.
What’s a hobby that you have that people don’t know about you?
I’m not going to demonstrate it, but I can still do a cartwheel. I can also make my tongue go upside down. Do you want to see that? Don’t film it though because it’s quite disgusting. [Does it]. Weird, right?
Do you have any unusual talents?
Is my cartwheeling not enough? Like what, that I speak 15 languages?
Do you watch any trash TV?
Obviously. I watch loads of trash TV. This is a really terrible admission isn’t it. Everything: First Dates, Come Dine With Me, Tattoo Fixers, Towie, Made in Chelsea. Less Made in Chelsea though because I don’t understand what they’re saying. It’s addictive; once everything’s quietened down, you can flick the TV on and find rubbish to relax.
Do you have any recurring dreams or nightmares?
I don’t have recurring ones but I recently had a dream that haunts me in my waking days, it was so terrifying. I allowed my nine year old son to get an enormous tattoo down one side of the front of his body, a bit like Cheryl Cole’s on her back. I woke up the next morning and ran to check that that hadn’t happened, but it still worries me now. Bad, bad idea. I think I’ve been watching too much Tattoo Fixers.
If you could meet one famous person, who would it be?
I’m torn – do I say Michelle Obama, or Kylie? I don’t know. Kylie’s face is frozen in time; it would be interesting to see her close up. But probably Michelle Obama.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done?
I do embarrassing things all the time. I’m an incredibly embarrassing parent, that goes without saying – wherever you’re given an opportunity to embarrass your children, that’s what you do, whether it’s funny walks in the street, speaking too loudly or dressing in a way that’s totally inappropriate. I’m regularly falling over in front of people. I generally go about expecting to embarrass myself. Things like you’re the only one clapping in a room. Tere seem to be lots of civic functions where you’re required to sing various things, you’re the one singing the wrong words, out of tune in front of everybody. That’s never good.
When was the last time you cried?
I cry every day. I’m such a cry baby. I cry at adverts, I cry with laughter, I cry because I stub my toe, I cry if I see a cute advert for the RSPCA. Loads of things.
How would your friends describe you in three words?
I’ve done this before and it was really bad. People afterwards were like ‘I don’t know why you said that at all’. You’re not funny at all, that’s one of the things that I said. But they said to me I was independent, determined and I don’t think they came up with a third one.
If you weren’t an MP, what you be do?
I’d be a stand-up comedian. I wouldn’t, that’s just a lie.
What would the title of your autobiography be?
It would have to be something fish related because that’s what we have in Grimsby. Something like Fishing for Compliments.
Have you ever broken the law?
Yes. Things like parking tickets and speeding tickets and littering. I get a lot of parking tickets because I’m disorganised and late.
Have you ever tried to talk your way out of a parking ticket?
I have successfully talked my way out a driving misdemeanour.
I cried. I said ‘I’m having a really bad day.’ And then changed it to week and then to year. ‘I’ve had a really bad year.’ And the policeman felt so sorry for me he let me off. And people were driving the other way and pointing and laughing at me. That was embarrassing. I had driven in front of a bus to be fair.