I scrunched up my eyes and tried to pretend to fall asleep in the car so Mummy and Uncle Pete might talk about people I know and swear, but he poked me in my belly and it made me laugh. I asked them why if Jenny could get herself pregnant but didn’t want to keep it, then why didn’t she give the baby to that lady who lost hers?
Uncle Pete was really good at catching beanbags and said that if I practiced I would never go hungry, even if I had to juggle three jobs for tips. He said that Mummy liked to practice riding her bike before she met my Daddy. Mummy tried to hit him but he held her wrist. She rubbed her arm and said sorry to him.
A man from Daddy’s work had a heart attack in Tenerife so his wife asked if we could keep Stella. Daddy put her in a box with her name on it as a surprise. I tried to teach her to jump through my hula hoop and run through the play tunnel then catch a bean bag in her mouth. Stella growled at Uncle Pete but he said if he gave her a good bone, she would know he was her master.
At the party, Uncle Pete picked me up and tried to dance with me but his breath smelled like beer and ciggies. I wiggled my legs, but he wouldn’t put me down until I kissed him. His prickly beard was nearly all white except for some brown bits around his mouth and some spit came out when he laughed.
When he did the Gangnam Style dance he smacked a lady’s bottom, and then she spilled her drink down her dress. A man asked him if he wanted to go outside, probably for a ciggie, so we didn’t get to do our magic show. My brother was supposed to say that he needed a volunteer, then point at Uncle Pete with his new wand from Olivanders and say you sir. Then he would join us on stage to charm the crowd and find money from behind our ears. He has done time which I think means he can take off people’s watches without them knowing. I heard a man say that you should watch out for his tricks but I didn’t see him do any.
I was crying because I wished that Jenny was there to see me in my Elsa dress as the glamorous assistant before I had to go to bed. I didn’t want Uncle Pete to make Marcus disappear, and then he said that he wouldn’t do that because he wasn’t worth it but that Marcus was inside for a lie down for his own good. He held up his phone and Marcus was inside the phone shouting and banging on the glass. When Marcus gets out he said he will do the right thing, and did I want to be a bridesmaid?
Uncle Pete tickled me so fast and wouldn’t stop even when I shouted. Then I wet myself. Stella ran over to Mummy and barked at her.
I always thought that if I had a little white scottie dog or a scruffy dog, I’d call her ‘Stella’, so I could holler her name!
Like a lot of people, I’m not my greatest fan of seeing or hearing myself on camera. (The lockdown weight gain and scraggy hair come free of charge) If I was talking to myself, then I’d be all, “get over yourself, woman. No-one gives a fart about what you look like, except you.”
So, here I am, reciting a poem I wrote about My Leicester. It’s called ‘One Hour Six Minutes’ as that’s as long as it takes the train from Leicester, to get to the gorgeous St Pancras station in London.
Thank you to Writing East Midlands for putting on these writing classes for residents of Britain’s most locked-down city. Special thanks to the brilliant tutor, Mahsuda Snaith.
Everyone who knows me knows that I never pass up the opportunity to write a letter, send a card or buy a postcard from the gift shop. I have been known to go to the gift shop and skip the museum. Obviously, I cannot tell you if I scribbled my lockdown secret on a postcard and sent it to Marby & Elm but….
Finally, and by no means least, I was chuffed to hear some new music by Josienne Clarke. ‘Sit Out’ is a banger. I think I called it a “floor-filler” on twitter. Anyway, get your air guitar ready. There’s a new album coming very soon!
Brexit had been temporarily banished and Halloween was still too far away to think about. I felt like a comedian given their first 10-minute slot. I spent ages that morning, wringing my hands, choosing which 8-minute segment to read from my story, ‘May Settle in Transit’. I couldn’t do the bit about gentrification, nor the bit about a different coffee shop. They didn’t feel right.
When I had settled on the most perfect chunk of prose, I read it out loud, recorded it, listened back, recorded it again, slowing my speech down, once more with feeling, enunciated, realised I hated the sound of my own voice and accent, tried not to fidget, remembered to smile, made notes in the book, and then did it again. I think I recorded it about 8 times in total. I wanted to take my time and not rush through to get it over with. I knew I would regret it if I did that. I kept telling myself that this was all practice for when I do my own book tour for my own novel. It’s little steps towards a future goal.
To get me into the zone, I tried listening to Eminem, like Obama used to before he went on stage, but the ‘Villains’ album by Queens of the Stone Age did the trick brilliantly. I went out for a pizza and large glass of Malbec with my super-positive friend for distraction, gossip and support, and continued to practice my deep breathing to calm my nerves.
It had been almost 30 years, since I had spoken in public (with the advance knowledge that I was expected to speak) and reading aloud something I had written heightened the nerves. Why does knowing beforehand make the fear greater? That time around, I was a singer in a local band, and I now have no idea how the 16-year-old me ever did it. I suppose acting in school plays were still fresh in my mind.
As a local sweet shop got a mention in my story, I bought “a quarter of spice” (100g of boiled sweets – rhubarb and custards) for the audience to pass around. That morning’s practice helped me to pace myself, and I looked up at the audience every few seconds, how I’ve seen professional public speakers do. To stop myself being overwhelmed, I bought myself time by handing over my business card to anyone who spoke to me. A “thank you” and a smile covered my panic.
My friend said it didn’t look like I was nervous, but I felt it. I think it’s obvious from my social media names I am well aware how my social anxiety manifests itself as uncontrollable babbling.
(Not actually giant cards, but mini play food)
It felt strange to read out something that was written a year ago, but now may be the first time someone else has heard it. It was great to meet some of the other contributors and hear their stories. I still have the original flyer seeking contributions.
Jon organised loads of events around Leicestershire to promote the book during the annual Leicester Literary Festival, ‘Everybody’s Reading’, culminating with this one at De Montfort University, Leicester on 25th February 2020.
You can buy a copy of the anthology, “An Attempt At Exhausting a Place in Leicester” here
When I first started this blog, I obviously didn’t have much content to share, so I created a page of quotes I like, called ‘these things I know’, and this one was the first on that list. Fate eh?
So, I now know the London village I want to move to when I win the lottery or have a best seller. I won’t get much change from a million quid though.
I did a recce via Parson’s Green tube to get my bearings a few weeks ago and had a little nosy around Nomad Books. This little indie bookshop has a wonderful vibe. It’s not just the big name bookshops that get the big names. Anthony Horowitz had his launch here this very week! Their massive children’s section is a great place to hold a book launch.
This was the first time most of us had even seen the book, let along held it, so it was quite a special evening. I wasn’t doing a reading (thank goodness) and my head is still buzzing trying to remember names to faces I know from social media, to bookmark their websites. I could get used to this little world of super-supportive writers, editors, and proofreaders!