Tag Archives: novels

Part 2. Of Hamster Parties, Robot Cars and Tony bloody Blair.

Yes. I have decided to Beyonce this blog. My phone has been ringing off the hook with people wanting to know what’s about to happen next! Well stop harassing me, this is the conclusion.

For those who can’t remember as far back as Tuesday I will recap.

When we last saw each other it was 1991 and Tony Blair had just done me over by awarding the poetry competition to someone else. I insinuated this was someone VERY BAD because that was a good cliffhanger and that makes people want to read the next bit.

Let us see what that’s all about…

 

REWIND.

Once, I had a hamster called Jerry. He was a good guy. He went bald. We were firm friends. I even attended a hamster party, and he came with me in his little ball and met the hamsters who were friends with my friends.

hanster

Me with Jerry (far left) at a hamster party. I am looking deep in thought, probably about another brilliant story.

One day, after a long and stressful life and several months of ailing health, Jerry died unexpectedly.

I was very saddened. This was even worse than when PJ and Duncan, my fish, died. (I do not remember the timescales. Perhaps Tony Blair and PJ and Duncan did not exist until later, or maybe this all happened earlier, I just don’t know. These are artistic choices, please stop being fussy).

There was a girl at school. We will call her Blonna to protect her identity as what she did was very mean and I wouldn’t want her to get hate mail for it now many years later. Blonna told me she was glad Jerry died.

This was the culmination of some long running feud. We had both said things, done things, we didn’t mean. But this? This was a step too far. My friends with hamsters understood and they told Blonna she was mean and she shouldn’t say things like this, and we all said we would not talk to her any more. At this point we all simultaneously flicked our hair and walked off.

The next morning, long before our daily assembly, a woman I did not recognise came into the classroom. She asked me if I was Amy. I said, Um, yes? because she was so scary I wasn’t sure if I was me. She had a glass eye (this is not an artistic choice, it is the truth) it was fixed and scary and her eyelid didn’t blink. Her other eye narrowed in anger, she pointed a finger in my face. She said, If you’re ever mean to Blonna again! Don’t you dare talk to my daughter again! I don’t remember her real words, I only remember the eye and the loudness and being very confused. My teacher was furious, she told her to go away, she hugged me all the way through assembly and even then I didn’t stop crying.

FAST FORWARD.

Tony Blair is handing Blonna the little chair. She has done an acrostic using the word DAFFODIL. There is a massive daffodil drawn in the empty bit of the page. It is very pedestrian. Not her, I think, my eyes filling with tears. She is smiling, she holds the little chair above her head, my heart is a concrete block.

At home I tell my mother. Tony Blair! she says, missing the point. She’s talking about the parents who gathered at the gates, Why do they care, they’re all Tories anyway. I do not know what this means but my mum is clever and she is a good person so I know she is right. Whatever it means, it helps me feel better, they really are tories. Ha ha ha.

It would be many, many years before I entered another competition. It would be 2016, in fact. Welcome to 2016! This is a dark future. All the celebrities are dying, it turns out Tony Blair was a baddie all along and we are trying to teach robot cars to make complex ethical choices, like if they should sacrifice themselves to avoid hitting a group of orphans. Phew, it’s all so heavy these days, so as you’d expect the stakes for my own writing also much higher.

I have written nearly a whole book. On this particular day, sometime in late March, I am feeling okay about it. Better than okay, today I think it is brilliant and probably one of the most fun books ever. It is on this day that my boyfriend Rhys sends me a text. (He often send me texts but I mean he sends me a specific one). It is a Daily Mail competition for a first time novelist. The prize is really good, it’s way better than the play set and the little chair combined! But even better, something like this would prove for sure that I am good at writing.

The deadline for the competition is April 16th and I have a lot of work to do so [montage] I knuckle down, editing day and night, I print it off and read it aloud while I walk around the living room with a pencil tucked behind my ear (I don’t but it looks good for the purposes of this montage, otherwise it’d just be me sitting there typing on my lap much as I am now) I shake my head and I throw it all away and start again. I show it to Rhys, he gives me a double thumbs up! (We can’t use dialogue, there’s music playing, so we need visual cues.) I put it all in a large brown envelope and I hold it to my chest and close my eyes for a moment before putting it in the post box. [end montage]

Not much happens for a while that is relevant to this story. I had a really good time in Disney World and we can maybe put in another montage of me enjoying rollercoasters but then we might have too many montages in a row.

writing

The mouse in the spaceship story, met with critical acclaim.

Wow, time has gone so fast! Much like a rollercoaster (you see what I did) there have been ups and downs but now, finally, I am answering a telephone call. My hand is shaking because I have been waiting for this call since I have been told I was shortlisted. I am in work, in the corridor, pacing. The person does not waste any time, they are telling me, You won!

Take that Tony Blair, I think. I am happy. This is everything I have ever wanted. I am thinking I won’t ever be sad ever again probably and then

Ugh

I am thinking they’ve probably made a mistake picking me because I am actually not a very good writer at all.

 

Perhaps this is not a very inspiring end to this story but it is the truth, and it is important to tell the truth because then other people will know that a lot of us are like this. We never think we are very good at anything and we think we need other people to tell us we are good but we don’t. It isn’t Blonna or Brother word processors or Tony Blair standing in the way of our happiness, it is only ourselves. Silly us.

So maybe from now on, when we are feeling worried that we aren’t good after all, we shouldn’t look out there for support, but in here (I am pointing to my heart).

 


Of Nuns, Time Travel and Tony Blair

squirrel

A squirrel eating a really big mushroom.

Hi. I haven’t seen you in a while. This is because I have been busy. For the past year I have been writing my book, which takes most of my time and especially my thoughts. I don’t know if you know this but writing a book takes even longer than reading one. But it is worth it because sometimes you will look at the book and you will think, This is exactly the type of book I wanted to read and I am the one who wrote it. That feeling is the best one I think I’ve ever had in the whole of my life. It is weird though, because other days you will look at it and you will think, Oh dear. This is not a very good book at all. How embarrassing.
I can’t explain why you will feel both these things but you will and this is okay because after looking into it, it seems everyone who ever wrote a book also felt like that.
Now someone else is looking at my book and so I have a little time while they work out how to help me mend its broken bits.It has given me some time to think of how I got here, to where I have written an actual book, because it has not been a straight path for me.
Take my hand and travel with me. We are going back. The year is 1990 or something. It is definitely around that time. Perhaps even earlier. I can’t remember. It is the scenery that is important. We are in a Roman Catholic primary school, the teachers are nuns, like Whoopi Goldberg. They have organised a writing competition. First prize is something, I don’t know what, because it isn’t important. It is more important that I am told I am a good writer.
I dictate the story to my mother, who types it on our Brother word processor. Here we can take a moment to smile and shake our heads, What were we like! Huh! We thought this was the height of technology and now it looks so dumb. Yes, we have come very far since then (hey, 1990 Amy, we have new five pound notes now and they are so weird) but this isn’t the point of the story, please try not to get distracted. No, the point is a young mind is being let loose creatively and it is as close to magical as we will ever know! Let us not worry that the young girl is infringing on many of the artistic properties of the St. Trinian’s series. This is not important either. No, she is having fun and she thinks this is possibly the most fun thing she’s ever done.

pen

A pen (you can write with these).

It is days until we are gathered in the assembly hall to find out the results of the competition. Because we are artists we have experienced a lot of self doubt in those days, we have said, Maybe I shouldn’t have entered! What if that bit with the frog isn’t as funny as I thought? But because we are artists we also daydream of winning the prize. Right now I think the prize might have been a colourful play set, simple block-like figures with permanent smiles and clip-on hats, but stop distracting me because the prize wasn’t what mattered most. I wanted to know, Am I good at this?
They call third prize, it isn’t me. Phew, I think. Second prize isn’t me either. I think, Oh good, I have come first. First prize is called…it is not me. We are clapping but we are confused, This isn’t a nice story at all! This is not cheering me up. This is very sad. What if this little person never writes again?
The nun – not Whoopi Goldberg – now she is saying something else. Something about a story that was so good it deserves a special mention. It is my name. I am given a colouring book. The nun explains, If this had been a competition for writing stories this would have done very well, but this was a handwriting competition.
Oh.
I was ahead of my time. I would never use a Brother word processing computer ever again! (No, 1990 Amy, you won’t, because soon every home will have a Windows computer and something called The Internet, I will explain when we meet again.)
This incident was a confusing blow to my confidence as a young writer. It would be a long time until I felt able to enter another competition. And next time, I swore, I would read the terms and conditions very carefully.
The year is 1994, I have changed schools as the Roman Catholic primary school went bust. It is a shame but we are settling nicely in the new school now. I am reading my story to the headmistress, it is a story about a mouse who falls asleep in a space suit and ends up going to space. There is some minor peril but otherwise it is a very positive story and the mouse has a lovely time. They give me a sticker because they think it’s such a wonderful story.
On the way back to the classroom I pass a poster on the wall. POETRY COMPETITION. It is for the Eisteddfod. Whoever wins gets a small wooden chair. Well, I think, I don’t know about the chair but I would like to officially be the best writer in this school. (Note: this is an artistic choice. I did not actually see a poster at this time. I think entrance in the competition was compulsory. But it is better if I tell you it happened like this because it is a better story.)
So I set to work. Traditionally I was a writer of prose, so this was outside my comfort zone. I tried many times, I screwed up the pieces of paper and threw them over my shoulder. My pencil was blunt from effort.
Finally, I knew it was done. I drew a massive leek on the empty side of the page, as it looked a little sparse, and I entered it in the competition.
The school was abuzz. There would be a special guest presenting the prize. A young and new politician by the name of Tony Blair. We do not know who he is, so don’t start going, Yeah yeah, he is a war criminal because no one knows this, in fact we don’t understand politics at all right now because we are about 9 or something.
All we know is that on that day lots of parents gather at the school gates and they clap and shake his hand as he comes in. It is like he’s a pop star but not that good looking. It doesn’t matter. Our motivation is not the politician, nor the tiny chair, but the recognition we crave for our efforts, even if it is poetry and we don’t really see what the fuss is about there.
Anyway. It is Tony Blair holding a tiny chair and we are unable to sit still. Come on Tony Blair, get on with it! Say who won! But he is smiling and he has loads of teeth and he won’t stop talking.
Eventually he says that he is going to say who has won. We are nervous because we hate standing in front of lots of people. We are shaking. We feel sick. It will be hard to collect the prize and the tiny chair will shake in our hands but we- what? Who?
Oh no.
Not her. Anybody but her.

TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK…

…Unless the reaction to this blog post is very positive, in which case I will Beyoncé it and drop it unannounced in the meantime.