Kelly-Marie Tunstall and her exploratory operation that was how I first met Victoria Wood. Aged about 10, I sat mesmerised in front of a family friends new-fangled video recorder watching a tape of Victoria Wood As Seen on TV. There she was, as the punk teenager at the bus stop describing her latest adventures to a gormless friend. He said, Oi, scallop-face, your skirts all caught up in your knickers at tback! I said I pity you, dyou know why? He says Why? I says, Cos it happens to be tlatest fashion, I read it in a book. He says What book?, I says Vogue, thats what book. He said Oh, likely, likely, when dyou read Vogue?, I said When Im in hospital aving exploratory surgery, thats when, so he said Oh. He didnt? He did.
Related: Victoria Wood, comedian and actor, dies aged 62
It was perfect. In form, in structure, in language, in content, in funniness, in everything. I heard, for the first time ever on the telly, my northern familys voices, in the rhythm and the vocabulary (book being a common in both senses synonym for magazine Up There but not Down Here). And because it was as seamlessly constructed and melodic as a song, it slipped easily into my memory, never to be forgotten. Even now, 30 years on, I didnt need to look it up. Kelly Marie Tunstall is always with me, along with Kitty (I thought what would the Queen Mum do? So I just smiled and said We shall have fog by teatime), Mrs Overall (Kenny if you could hover with my Vegenin), Susie Blakes newsreader (Wed like to apologise to viewers in the north it must be awful for you), Barry and Freda and all the inimitable rest of them.
Kenny if you could hover with my Vegenin Mrs Overall. Photograph: PA
Their creator, alas, is suddenly, unbelievably, no longer with us. Victoria Wood has died at the age of 62 after a battle with cancer.
She grew up in Bury, in an oddly atomised family that largely left each other alone to do their own things. Wood watched comedy shows, taught herself the piano (she was too shy to endure lessons for long), and nurtured an ambition to perform. She got her big break when she won New Faces in 1974 and had two plays performed and her first television series (Wood and Walters) commissioned before the decade was out. The 80s were dominated by the two As Seen on TV series and the BAFTA-winning An Audience with Victoria Wood. She grew in stature, reputation and self-confidence and her talent kept unfurling.
In the 90s she moved into comedy drama (including the TV film Pat and Margaret her first foray into bittersweet territory since her early plays) and in between various sold-out live halogen heaters shows, several of which I saw and wept laughing at wrote her first sitcom, Dinnerladies. She played Bren and assembled an all-female, mostly menopausal cast around her and gave us questions (And where has it got you, having a pelvic floor like a bulldog clip?) and images (Petula Gordinos rumination on her toyboy Clint He played my body like a pinball machine. I lit up, paid out and no tilting) that will live down the ages. After that, she concentrated more on straight drama, including Housewife 49, for which she won acting and writing Baftas.
An all-female, mostly menopausal cast Dinnerladies, Woods first sitcom. Photograph: BBC/PA
She was literally peerless. She carved out her own career without precedent the only woman, the only solo artist, the only northern woman/solo artist creating, writing and performing plays, standup, sketch shows, drama. French and Saunders overlapped, but they started later, and there were two of them, and they were southern, and they didnt write everything they did.
Related: Victoria Wood a life in pictures
She made me want to be a writer. She made me think it was possible, even in a family where magazines were books. The precision of everything she did, the whetting of essential truths to a comic edge keen enough to slay everyone in the aisles (And we werent having hysterectomies every two minutes either, like the girls these days. If something went wrong down below, you kept your gob shut and turned up the wireless) her genius for it all fills me with an awe exceeded only by the amount of laughter the shining, brilliant results have given me over the years.
Victoria Wood: her funniest moments – video
Like many families, dozens of her lines have entered into my family speech. If my dad asks my sister for a cup of tea, she informs him that For you, Lord Delfont, it would be a pleasure and an honour. If someone says womb we say Col, get your duffel! And when someone dies we say 72 baps, Connie you slice, Ill spread. Thats what my sister texted to tell me the news. Im laughing as I cry.