127. Nothing Up His Sleeve

Photo by Delaney Dawson on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Luis Desiro on Unsplash

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!

Dahlia Books Short Fiction Festival Weekend – 12 and 13 June 2021

The Short Fiction Festival Weekend, hosted by Dahlia Books, is a celebration of the short form, featuring writing workshops, author discussions and networking.

Led by some of the A Brief Pause tutors, the weekend is the ultimate retreat for anyone looking to master the short form.

Click here to find out more and to buy your ticket!


If you’re quick, you can still grab a ticket for an online reading and author talk with none other than Kathy Fish, queen of all things Flash Fiction, hosted by Dahlia Books. Click here for tickets.


Fancy putting some of that workshop knowledge to good use? Why not enter one of your own pieces of short fiction into the Leicester Writes annual competition or submit it to a new PAYING literary magazine called A Present Tense.


One of the positives to come out of the recent lockdown is the online festival and I think it’s here to stay. It’s perfectly suited towards all things bookish. I can honestly say that I’ve attended more virtual author talks, book launches, panel discussions, webinars and writing classes in the last year than the rest of my life combined. There was no rugby scrum for tickets, I didn’t need to book a train ticket or worry about it being cancelled due to the weather. I was able to ‘go to it’ even though the event was held in another country or I was feeling unwell. I didn’t need to find someone to go with, because everyone who attended was on their own. I have interacted with high profile authors in masterclass settings whilst still in my pyjamas. Delegates and Tutors have Zoomed in from all over the world, all coming together to learn, share their knowledge and network. I’ve felt safe, knowing that disruptive people would be booted out (Jackie Weaver style). Spoiler, I’ve never yet attended a Zoom class where anyone has been unfriendly or rude. I’ve found it a much more comfortable setting to learn, and think that these classes foster a sense of intimacy and community from the start.