I've led a tough life. Having freckles hasn't helped. Neither has my ginger hair (though I prefer to describe it as strawberry blond). My nose is pretty big, too.
But what's made things really difficult over the years isn't obvious to other people. At least not until I pick up a pen.
Have you guessed yet? I'm left-handed. I'm a cack-hand. A corrie-fist. Some even describe people like me as Pecksniffian. There's been plenty written about left-handedness - how it's linked to the word sinister, for example.
We're different, you see. Scissors are the wrong way round. Tin-openers are back-to-front. And holding a pen and writing in the normal fashion turns the lower edge of your hand into a very effective ink-smearing device. Your thumbnail blocks your view of the pen nib. Absolutely anything could be appearing on the page. You wouldn't know.
So you develop a very idiosyncratic grip to get around the problem. I call mine 'the claw'. Small children - my own included - see my fingers contorting into a spider-like vice and run screaming from the room. (To describe: place all four - yes four - fingertips down the side of the pen with your little finger pressed against the paper. Apply the pad of your thumb to the pen's opposite side. Now curl your hand round so it veers off at a right angle to your wrist. Commence writing.)
My uncle's a cack-hand, too. He was at school when holding your pen 'funny' got your knuckles rapped with the thin edge of a ruler. Or maybe jabbed at with an icicle - apparently his school was so cold, the teacher would swing at pupils just to keep warm.
Anyway, things have moved on. Schools now have central heating. And, in the world of stationery, you have some amazing designs especially for us sinister types.
It's too late for me. The claw will not be defeated. I can't write any other way. But my younger son still has a chance. Yes, he was also born with the left-handed gene. He's also got a pen made by Stabilo called the EASYoriginal. Clever thing it is, too.
The rubberised mid-part has these depressions that you fingertips gravitate to, as if by magic. You end up holding the pen properly. They also prevent you from holding it too far down - so you can always see what you're writing. The top tapers off into a curve (a bit like the tip of a wizard's hat) so it fits snuggly against your index finger. Apparently, the roller-ball doesn't smudge and, if you make a mistake, the ink can be rubbed out.
Hurray, my son won't have to go through the hand-writing hell I endured! He won't have his classmates snigger at him as he writes. Words won't look like they're shooting across the page, leaving behind a faint blur. In fact, there's only one other thing he need worry about. I wonder if Stabilo make a decent dye for ginger hair?
- Chris Simms
Chris is a British crime writer living in Manchester. You can find out more about his work here.