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Found on the shores of The West Midlands. The Coventry Conch tells the tale of a young girl's experience growing up in Coventry in the 1990's.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

THE SHOPPING TRIP



Tasha rang up this morning and asked if I wanted to go up town with her. I really can’t be arsed, but I need to get Jenny a birthday present, and there’s nothing decent on telly until Big Break, so I tell her I’ll meet her outside Maccy D's at one.


To be honest, I’ve been avoiding Tash a bit lately, since she started nicking stuff again. I don’t know why she bothers, her parents are loaded, they've got three bogs! AND she’s been to Orlando, Florida......twice!!!

Loads of people seem to be on the rob at the moment. The boys in my class have got a competition over who can steal the biggest thing from JJB Sports. Apparently, Gareth nicked a golf club last weekend, while he was out shopping with his nan. Nobody’s actually seen the golf club yet though, and, when someone accused him of lying, he said, ‘Ask my Nan’, which is what everyone says when they’re lying, ‘Ask my Nan…Ask My mum…Ask my Uncle’. One day I’m actually going to ask them:

‘Hi, Gareth’s Nan. Gareth told us that he stole a golf club from JJB sports last weekend, and I thought I’d just pop round to see if that’s true?’

‘Oh, hi Kevin’s mum. Kev said you once farted so badly that you made the dog throw up, and I just wanted to check it really was that bad?’

‘Are you Sara’s Uncle? Sara and me are in the same class. She said I could confirm with you, that you’re sooo hard, you just head butt the vending machine to get a Crunchie out instead of using the correct change?.’ *

When I told Mum that I was going into town, she told me to look in her purse for some money, but there were only coppers and a torn-up lottery ticket. It’s the end of the month which means Mum and Dad are SKINT!! It’s fine though because we’ll be minted again soon. Like when Dad got paid last month, we had Perfect Pizza three days in a row, and he bought Mum a box of Terry’s All Gold (she gave me one and it was bloody heaven).

I don’t want to tell Mum that she doesn’t have any money left, so I decide to break into the £6.27 savings from my money box. It’s the one where the skeleton grabs the coins with his bony hand and then drags them back into his coffin. I really wanted it when I was like eight years old, but like everything else that’s cool, I get it when Nanny Pam finds one at the car boot…five years later!

Tasha’s always late and I’m always early, which means I usually have to stand around looking like a Billy No Mates for half an hour, so when I get to Maccy’s I decide to get myself a Happy Meal and sit inside for a bit. I stack up my three pounds and one pee change on the table next to my four empty pots of BBQ sauce while looking at Ronalds big cheesey grin on the empty Happy Meal box.

When Tasha eventually arrives, we walk around the shops together while she lists all the things that have pissed her off this week ‘…So, Mum was like you asked for the hamsters, you clean them, and I was like yeah, but I didn’t know they live for fucking eternity!...and my Dad can fuck off! He’s always buying the stuff that Jason likes, he knows I hate Rib ‘n’ Saucy... Nice ‘n’ Spicy are obviously the best...But golden boy Jason likes them so…and I swear our next-door neighbour’s a pervert, I was out in my dressing gown yesterday cleaning dogshit off my trainer and he was like, ‘morning’ but not like ‘morning’ it was more like ‘mooorrrrning…’

In Claire’s Accessories, I see a necklace for Jenny with a Yin Yang on it, she’s well into world peace and stuff at the moment, so I think she’ll like it. It’s £3.99 though, so I put it back on the hook. All the other cheaper stuff is naff as, and I feel like a knob for splashing out on a Maccy’s like I’d won the bloody pools or something.

I look over at Tasha, she’s rolled her sleeve up and is filling her arm up with a neon rainbow of shag band bracelets. Then she pulls her sleeve back over them and walks out of the shop. I shuffle after her, nearly knocking down a whole cat themed earring display on my way out.

When we get around the corner, Tasha starts laughing her head off. I AM SHITTING IT, and I’m not sure if I can taste BBQ sauce or sick at the back of my throat.

Tasha clenches her fists and puts them in front of me.

‘Pick one’

I touch the right; it’s got nothing in it, then she opens the left and lets the Yin Yang necklace I was looking at fall between her fingers. She starts laughing again and says, ‘You can have it’.

When I get home, I run upstairs and put the necklace in my money box, then I put the money box in the back of the cupboard and cover it with an old school jumper. Then, I spend a while looking at the criminal in my bedroom mirror. I can feel sweat running down my armpits and think that Sure should make a deodorant especially for people like me: 24 hour protection…from the law!

Grandad’s come round for tea. I give him a half-arsed hug and sit down next to him at the table. I know he’s in the mood for a chat, but I just stare at the greasy juice pouring out of my chicken Kiev.

‘You got a boyfriend yet love? … You want to get a shifty on. My sister’s a spinster like you, never settled down, no sprogs... travelled the world... think she’s on a cruise ship somewhere in the Caribbean now... you don’t want to end up like her!.’

Mum pipes up from the kitchen, ‘She’s fourteen Dad, and I wouldn’t mind being on a cruise ship with no sprogs, like that Jane McDonald.’

‘Now that’s a woman! I wouldn’t mind being on the captain’s table with her, if you know what I mean.’

‘DAD!!!!!’

I say I’m feeling sea sick and go upstairs.

I lay on my bed and stare at the ceiling for a bit. Dad did this mad effect on it with paint a few years ago, where he got a comb and made all these swirls, and I follow them with my eyes when I need to calm down sometimes.

After a bit there’s a knock on the door, and Grandad comes in.

‘Your mum sent me up to apologise.’

 Grandad looks at the Oasis poster on my wall.

‘That Ian Gallagher wants a bloody haircut’.

I start crying.

‘Oh god, sorry love, I’m sure he’s alright really. You know I just want you to find someone who will look after you, buy you a nice Barrat’s home on Bannerbrook Park, that sort of thing’

I tell Grandad that I won’t need a house when I’m in prison. Then tell him all about my shopping trip.

‘So, you’re an accessory to the crime. That doesn’t look good love. My mate Tel went down for less. All the poor bastard did was go to sleep in the wrong house after a night on the sauce. And the thing is, he always sleeps bollock naked….and a lot of men use the kitchen sink to take a leak in the night…and a cat could kick in a front door on that estate. Anyway, the fourth time he did it, he got six months.

‘I’m sure you’ll be fine though, sweetheart, but If you do get nicked…just say,  ‘no comment’ to everything, in a different accent if you can. And if you ever get pulled over on your way back from the boozer, chew a whole pack of Juicy Fruit before you step out of the car, that stuff's potent and always keep a bottle of sober piss in the boot, you never know when you’re going to need it…’

I ask Grandad if I should go and give the necklace back somehow.

‘No love, I wouldn’t go back in that shop for a while and look on the bright side you've just saved yourself £3.99!’

*To be fair Sara’s uncle is meant to be absolute nails, ask my dad



Sunday, 11 March 2018

THE LIVING DEAD





 11am


I’m skiving round Nanny Pam’s today.  I thought I had a tummy bug this morning but it turned out to be a false alarm, and I’d just had too much Sunny D round Amy’s last night. Mum had to go to college, so she dropped me at Nanny Pam’s. On the way round she made me sit on a bin bag in the car just in case.

Nanny Pam and me are watching This Morning; there’s a woman on talking about how she's been cheating on her husband with a ghost.  The TV presenter asks if she has ever been intimate with the ghost. Nanny Pam stares at the TV while her Rich Tea biscuit breaks off into her coffee.

The phone rings, I look at Nanny Pam, without taking her eyes off the telly she says, ‘Be a love and get that will yer.’

I answer the phone but before I even say hello, I can hear Nanny Pam’s friend Maeve shouting her mouth off, as usual.

‘Are you watching that woman on This Morning, Pam? Dirty Cow! Fancy cheating on her husband with a ghost. At least when my Mick had an affair I could go round and smack her one, but that poor bastard doesn’t stand a chance against a ghost.…’

‘Maeve…MAEVE! It’s not Nan, it’s Holly!’

‘Oh hello Holly love. Did you see that woman on This Morning? Dirty Cow! Fancy cheating on her husband with a ghost…’

Nanny Pam shouts from the living room, ‘Who is it?’

I say, ‘It’s Maeve.’

Maeve says, ‘Is that Pam?’

I say, ‘Yeah’.

‘Ask her if she’s coming to bums and tums later?’

‘Nan, are you coming to bums and tums later?’

Nanny Pam says, ‘Is Sheila going?’

I say, ‘Is Sheila going?’

Maeve says she thinks so.

Nanny Pam eventually comes to the phone, but not before Maeve tells me one of her daft stories about how her friend Maxine’s dog has learnt how to start a fire.

While Nanny Pam’s on the phone to Maeve I sit down next to her and pick up the BT Phone Book from the shelf for something to look at. It’s next to a rank photo of me from a couple of years ago when I was holding three of Nanny Pam’s guinea pigs at once. I’m looking dead chuffed with myself even though I’m wearing Nanny Pam’s brown Tesco fleece. Sometimes I think that my biggest fear of being murdered is Nanny Pam dragging this photo out for Midlands Today News.

Nanny Pam and Maeve start talking about the woman on This Morning.

‘She says they have, but it feels really cold, like a Calippo, so they don’t do it that often.’

I look through the pages of the phone book while Nanny Pam gasses on to Maeve. First I find Amy’s number, which is dead sad because I know it off by heart anyway, then I find Aunty Mandy’s and then I do something really sad and look for Tom’s! I’ve started to fancy him even more now that he’s started to use gel in his hair.

I know Tom’s Dad’s name is Geoff so I narrow it down to three possible G.Stevensons. I think about writing them down and prank calling them at the weekend with Amy. When I think about it a bit more though, I decide that it would be a pretty tragic thing to do. I put the phonebook back on the shelf and pick up the Avon catalogue next to it, to cheer myself up a bit with the smelly pages.

Nanny Pam starts up her usual chat with Maeve about who has died this week.

‘…and Anne’s brother in law.’

‘Yeah, and Chip Shop Pete’s Mum…yeah it exploded apparently.’

’Eighty-six, but still that’s no way to go.’

‘Oh and remember Barry from ‘The Bell’, you know the one who stank of cheese and onion crisps! ... Yeah two weeks they said, and he only went in with a broken toe.’

‘And I haven’t seen Margaret across the way for two days now, and she did say she was having some tests done. You haven’t seen her down the club have yer? ...’

‘Well how strange … I don’t know what tests, but she didn’t look too bright the last time I saw her.’

I rub the Avon catalogue against my neck, to try on the ‘Pearls and Lace’ perfume sample. From the window in Nanny Pam’s porch I see Margaret pull up on her drive, I nudge Nanny Pam, but she shrugs me off and keeps talking.

‘I suppose they’ll have to sell Margaret’s house then, I wonder what they’ll get for it, she hasn’t put a conservatory on like us.’

I watch Margaret unload the Asda shopping bags from her car, and let her cat in the house.

Nanny Pam eventually says to Maeve, ‘Ta ra then love, yeah I’ll let you know about Margaret, but it doesn’t look good does it…’

‘Are you going to bums and tums?...No I don’t think I will either then.’

Thursday, 14 December 2017

CONCH CHRISTMAS SPECIAL




12.00pm

It’s Christmas Eve and Mum and Dad have ditched us at Nanny Pam’s while they go shopping all day. Dad only got paid today so they’ve gone out to buy everything. Dad said he’d buy a proper tree as well, because the one he got from the woods doesn’t have any needles left and Mum says it smells like cat piss.

Jenny, Josh and me are lying in front of the telly watching Home Alone and eating Cornflakes. Nanny Pam let us put double cream on them instead of milk as a special Christmas treat.

12.30pm

Nanny Pam’s friend Maeve, from the fag counter, pulls up outside in her knackered old brown mini, she’s wearing her Tesco uniform and her name badge has some tinsel round it. Out of her boot she grabs a big red bin bag that says ‘Santa’s Sack’ on it.

Maeve comes into the living room, plonks herself on the sofa, does a big annoying sigh and lights a fag. I really hope Maeve’s not in one of her talkative moods, because she’ll ruin the film, she’s always in a talkative mood though.

Dad never buys fags from Tesco when Maeve’s on shift. He says he can feel himself ageing in the queue while she tells the customers in front her daft stories, like the one about her dog being psychic or the time her sister in-law accidently swallowed a car air freshener.

After being quiet and pretending to watch the film for less than half a second Maeve says,

‘What's this film all about then?’

Jenny tells her really quickly, ‘This boy’s home alone, there’s some burglars, and he has to get them to piss off before his parents come back.’

Maeve says, ‘Oh right, that’s like what happened to my neighbour Maureen last week. She went up town and when she came home she saw her bathroom window was open. Now, she thought she might have been burgled, but it turns out her husband had just got home from work early and opened it after he’d been to the toilet.’

Jenny says, ‘That’s nothing like Home Alone.’

‘Tis! Anyway, do youse lot wanna see what’s in Santa’s sack?’

We pause Home Alone and sit around Maeve while she gives us a present each. Josh opens his first; it’s a kazoo! Mum will go mad when she sees it. We’ve only just got him to stop playing the recorder. Mum had to pretend it had batteries, and that they’d ran out, by shoving a load of bog roll in so it stopped making a sound.

I open mine. It’s a jumper that has a cat on it but the cat has a really long face, and instead of paws it’s got big hands which are connected to a black box that has teeth.

It’s rank, but I decide to be dead fake and say, ‘Thanks Maeve, I love cats’ (which isn’t exactly a lie because I do love cats).

‘It’s not a cat it’s Snoopy playing the Piano’

I can’t think of anything else to say so I just give Maeve a hug.

Jenny opens her present; it’s a used blusher.

Maeve says, ‘I thought you were looking a bit pale recently love, and the lads like it when you’ve got a bit of a glow’.

Jenny says, ‘Feminists don’t wear make-up’.

‘Well if you want a girlfriend, you’re still going to have to start making the most of yourself, because I don’t think girls go for ghosts either.’

‘I’m not a lesbian, I’m a feminist.’

‘Oh, well do what you like with it love, I got it free with Take a Break anyway, but when I tried it on, your Nan said I looked like I’d been Vimto'd.’

‘Tango'd?’

‘Yeah, that’s what I said.’

From the kitchen Nanny Pam asks Maeve if she wants a cuppa.

Maeve asks, ‘Have you got any Baileys?’

Nanny Pam shouts, ‘I thought you’ve got work?’

‘I have but I need to get my courage up for Father Christmas, it’s his last shift in the grotto today.’

Josh stops playing his Kazoo and stares at Maeve. I whisper to him that Maeve doesn’t mean the real Father Christmas, and that there’s no way the real one would bother coming to Tesco, Cannon Park when he could be cheesing around Lapland with Rudolph.

Nanny Pam hands Maeve a Baileys and says, ‘You’re not still going on about him are yer? I thought he was shacked up with Jill from the garage anyway?’

Maeve sips her Baileys and says, ‘Let's just say there’s no Mrs. Claus anymore after she caught him coppin’ off with Michele the Mouth at the works do. But Michele got back with Tony on Fish last week, so he’s a free agent again.’

Nanny Pam says, ‘Fine but when Father Christmas is back on the dole in January, don’t come moaning to me’

Maeve lights up a new fag while the one she’s just finished still burns in the ashtray. Jenny presses play and Kevin McAlister gets a lovely cheese pizza just for him. I wish we were having an America Christmas with proper Christmas trees, snow and pizza.

3.30pm

After ruining the whole film, eating all the decent Roses and brimming the ashtray, Maeve eventually leaves for her shift on the fag counter.

 It starts to get dark and Nanny Pam’s Christmas lights come on. Cars start to drive really slowly passed her house and kids faces press against car windows to have a look. Nanny Pam’s gone even bigger with her display this year, after one of her neighbours put a note through the door last year saying they were ‘tacky and dragging the whole street down’.

Mum and Dad come back with a huge Christmas tree tied to the roof! We run to the car before Dad’s even parked and get in. Nanny Pam waves us off, and Dad says we can have what ever we want for dinner. I ask if I can have a lovely cheese pizza just for me.















Sunday, 5 November 2017

CAROL


4pm

I’m locked out.

Mum’s at her friends with Josh until six. Jenny’s meant to be home to let me in, but I reckon she’s forgotten and is probably cheesing around with her new senior school mates outside Happy Shopper.

Our next-door neighbor, Carol, is staring at me through her net curtains. Bloody Carol, she’s always spying on me when I’m just trying to do my own thing. Last week, she dobbed Amy and me in to my Mum for drawing a chalk willy on our garden path. We washed it off before Mum even saw it, but Carol must have had her beady little eyes on us all day.

From the kitchen I heard her telling Mum over the fence that we’d been drawing ‘men’s private parts’ in the garden. Mum said sorry and that she’d be having a word. Then she came into the kitchen and stuck her head into the mug cupboard. I could tell she was laughing, because she was shaking, but when she eventually took her head out she told me that I should know better.

4.10pm

I sit on the doorstep and start kicking up some of the weeds in the crazy paving.
Carol’s front door opens and she shuffles out; her whole outfit is beige apart from her pink slippers. Jenny says Carol’s the living dead and could be over 100 years old but I thinks she’s more like 70 summat.

Carol looks me up and down, then says, ‘Locked out are ya?’

‘Yeah.’

‘You can sit round mine if you need to?’

‘No, thanks.’

‘It’s gonna rain you know.’

‘I know, but my Mum’s on her way back so...’

‘Well, suit yourself.’

There’s no way I’m going round Carol’s! She’s well moody and she’ll probably dob me in for eff all again.

4.15pm

It starts raining.

I press Carol’s doorbell and it plays a really long tune. Carol answers and says, ‘If you’re coming in take those shoes off!’

I’ve never actually been inside Carols house before, it’s done out in the same shade of beige as her cardigan. The fire’s one of those fake ones with the glowy coals and Carol’s got it turned up to a billion degrees centigrade. I can feel my armpits sweating, so I take my school coat off, Carol grabs it off me, then shuffles into her downstairs cupboard to hang it up. 

I look at the photos on Carol's windowsill. There's a black and white wedding photo and some random kids school photo in a frame that says NAN. Next to the photos is a bowl of pot pourri, I reach down to pick it up so I can smell it, but old x-ray eyes shouts from the cupboard,

 ‘Before you touch anything go upstairs and wash your hands!’

 I hate houses where you have to wash your hands, it’s like people think you’re a tramp or something.

Carol’s bathroom has thick green carpet. On the windowsill there’s a plastic dolphin with a stupid grin, holding a sign that says, ’Please be neat and wipe the seat’. I go for a number one and smell my armpits, then I look in Carol’s cabinet for some Impulse but she only has a roll on and I don’t fancy using that!

I walk down the stairs into Carol’s living room. There’s no sofa, just two armchairs with little tables next to them and Carol’s sat in one of them.

‘You can sit down if you want’

I walk up to the empty armchair.

‘Not there, that’s Jimmy’s chair, children sit on the floor.’

I remember Mum saying that Carol used to have a husband, but he died when I was little. Mum said he was well nice though and even gave her a lift to the hospital when she was having Josh.

I sit down on the carpet next to a big glass cabinet full of ornaments. Carol’s cat, Mitsy comes in through the cat flap in the porch, she stares me out, then jumps up onto Jimmy’s chair. Carol doesn’t say anything. 

4.20pm

Me and Carol sit looking at each other for a bit without saying anything. The only noise comes from the radio, which must be tuned to Granny FM, as all it's playing is dodgy old people songs.

Eventually Carol says, ‘Well, I’m going to have a cuppa. If you want one too,  you can come and help make it.’

I follow Carol into the kitchen.

‘Get that pot down from the top shelf’.

I use some little steps Carol has to help her reach things and pass the pot down to her. It’s covered in dust so she gives it a wipe with a dishcloth.

‘I haven’t used this pot in months. I just put the bag straight in the cup these days, no point going to all the effort for one cup. Jimmy liked the milk in first. I don’t think you can tell the difference, but he’d know if I’d done it the wrong way round.’

Carol puts the pot and cups on a tray with a little plate of Fig Rolls, and I carry it into the living room. When she pours the tea her hand shakes and it splashes all over the tray. I pretend not to notice but Carol tuts and says,

‘It’s no fun getting old you know! It takes me half an hour to get up the stairs these days. Sometimes, when I need to use the toilet in the afternoon, I just stay up there and get into bed to save myself going down and up again. I went to bed at three ‘o’ clock last week!’

I sip my tea and look at all of the stuff in the cabinet while trying to think of something to take Carol’s mind off being dead old and that. ‘I like all your ornaments. My Grandad’s taught me loads about antiques, they’re probably worth a bit you know’.

‘Do you think so?’

‘Yeah, I reckon. Sometimes me and Jenny pretend we’re on Antiques Roadshow and value each other’s stuff. We haven’t played in a while though, because we had a fight last time when she valued my entire pig collection at 50p!’

4.40pm

We set up a game of Antiques Roadshow on Carol’s dining room table. She gets some of the ornaments out, and I ask if I can use her magnifying glass next to the crossword on her side table. She’s the guest and I’m the expert.

One of the ornaments is Goofey playing Golf. I pick it up and turn it upside down. I use the magnifying glass to read the Disney sign on his foot.

‘So Carol, where did you find this lovely item?’

‘Well, my son, Terry, went to Disneyland a few years ago and bought it back for his Dad, because Jimmy used to say he always fancied playing golf.’

‘It’s a remarkable find Carol, dating back to the 17th century I believe, and it’s definitely a Disney, because it says Disney.  I’d bet you’d like to know how much it’s worth?’

‘Oooh yes please?’

‘I’d say as a rough estimate you’re looking in the region of four thousand pounds…how does that sound?’

Carol laughs and says, ‘Oooh lovely’.

‘What will you be spending the money on?’

‘Well, I’d like to fly my son and his family over here from Australia. Do you know I haven’t even met one of my grandchildren and I’ve got two now! Oh and I’d love to go down London and meet Kilroy, I think he’s fabulous.’

5.30pm

Jenny walks past Carol’s window. I tell Carol that I’d best be getting back, and start to help her put the ornaments back in the cabinet.

 ‘I can come back and do some more valuations one day, if you want?’

‘Yes, that’d be nice.’