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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, 8 January 2017

GIRL POWER



4pm

I’ve got an hour to find a fancy dress outfit in Nanny Pam’s wardrobe!

Sammy from my class is having a fancy dress party tonight in the church hall. At break time today she asked if I wanted to go because Rachael’s got diarrhea and can’t go anymore and her mum said she had to ask someone else.

I only said yes because Tom’s going to be there and Amy’s going too. Amy got invited ages ago because her mum works with Sammy’s mum at the doctors surgery. She didn’t want to go but her mum’s made her and even bought her a proper Baby Spice outfit for it.

I go for tea round Nanny Pam’s on Thursday nights because mum’s at college. Usually we just sit around eating choc ices and watch all the soaps but I won’t even get to watch Neighbours tonight, because I need to sort my costume out!

Maeve’s round Nanny Pam’s. Usually I like seeing Maeve, she tells funny stories. Once she said she saw Chris Akabusi in Marks and Spencer’s buying his underpants, and another time she said she won a conservatory in The Daily Mail, but they wouldn’t give it to her because she lives in a top floor flat. I don’t have time to listen to her tonight though and luckily she’s too busy reading a story called ‘I HAD SEX WITH A GHOST!’ in one of Nanny Pam’s Take A Break magazines.

I start panicking about the party and my costume to Nanny Pam, while she takes some fish fingers out from under the grill. She says ‘Look love, if you could go as anyone who would it be?’

I think for a bit. I’d like to go as Jet from Gladiators but I’m not wearing Nanny Pam’s swimming costume and I think that all the other girls will be going as Spice Girls, so I probably should as well.

‘A Spice Girl’

4.30pm

I eat my fish finger sandwich faster than ever, and go upstairs with Nanny Pam to find an outfit.

Nanny Pam says, ‘Right well, my joggers are in the wash after bums and tums so I can’t do you a sporty spice, I sold my blonde wig at a boot sale last week so that rules out Baby, I don’t like that miserable Posh one, and I’m not getting a bollocking for dressing you up as that slapper Ginger. What about Scary Spice? I’ve got a leopard print blouse in here somewhere...’



4.40pm

Nanny Pam finds me some black leggings and I put them on with her silky leopard print blouse. All of Nanny Pam’s shoes are too small for me so I put my school shoes back on.

Nanny Pam starts crimping my hair and Maeve comes upstairs to help with my make-up, I look up at the orange lipstick on Maeve’s teeth and the sparkly blue circles around her eyes and start worrying again.

When they’re both finished I stand up on Nanny Pam’s bed and look in the big mirror on her dressing table. I look like Nanny Pam Spice.

5.30pm

I’m late for the party because we had to drop Maeve off on the way. When Nanny Pam say’s goodbye to someone it usually means it will be another hour before they actually leave, especially if it’s Maeve! Just as she was getting out the car she started telling Nanny Pam a massive story about the time her friend found a dead mouse in a Crunchie, and that she always chops them up before she eats them now.

I walk into the church hall and through all the Spice Girls I can see Tom in the Corner with Matt, apart from Sammy’s dad (who’s dressed in a really tight Elvis costume) they’re the only boys at the party. Tom’s dressed as Liam Gallagher. He’s drawn sideburns on his face with black felt-tip and has a long green parka on. My tummy flips and I go to find Amy.

Amy’s sat down on her own by the buffet putting Hula Hoops on her fingers. I grab a handful of skips and sit down next to her. We watch all the other Spice Girls for a bit. Sammy’s dressed as Posh and Lisa’s dressed as Ginger. They keep running up to the boys and saying stuff then running back to the rest of the girls to giggle.

5.40pm

Sammy comes over to me and Amy, and we shuffle up to let her sit down. The other girls are acting really daft across the room, whispering and giggling. Sammy says to me ‘Tom wants to know if you’ll go out with him.’

I feel really shaky and hot. I look at Amy, she smiles and bites a Hula Hoop off her finger.

Sammy stands up and pulls me up with her then pushes me towards Tom.

5.45pm

I wipe my Skip fingers on Nanny Pam’s leggings and smooth my hair, which has gone really frizzy from all the crimping.

I walk up to Tom and say hi, he nods at me and then carries on talking to Matt. I stand next to him and Matt for a bit without saying anything. I look across the room. Amy’s still sat on her own watching me and looking nervous, Sammy’s dad’s at the buffet pulling his Elvis trousers out of his bum crack and eating sausage rolls, and all the other Spice Girls are laughing their heads off in the corner near the door.

Tom shouts to the girls, ‘What are youse lot laughing at?’

Sammy shouts back, ‘Holly thinks you’re going out with her!’

Tom looks at me and I look at my school shoes. Then he say’s ‘Eugh, yeah right’.

5.50pm

I run out of the hall crying my head off with Baby Amy Spice following me.

Outside I cry so much I sound like my brother when he was a baby. Amy asks if we should go back in the hall and ring her mum to pick us up early. I tell her that there’s no way we’re going back in there, and that we’ll just have to wait in the car park until her mum comes at seven.

6pm

I finally stop crying a bit, and me and Amy decide to walk to Londis down the road and come back at seven so we don’t have to see anyone or hear the stupid music coming from the hall.

6.10pm

Tasha the goth is smoking outside Londis with all her gothy mates. I tell Amy that we’re going to have to go back to the car park because the last thing I need is Tasha taking the piss as well.

We turn around and start walking back to the Church Hall, but it’s too late. Tasha  shouts, ‘HOLLLLLLLLEEEEEEE’.

Tasha’s drunk, she runs up to me, gives me a big fat hug and tells me that she loves me. Her coat smells like a hamster’s wee corner and fags. When she eventually lets go she looks at me and asks, ‘Have you been crying? Why are you dressed like a twat?’

Baby Amy Spice tells Tasha everything and I start crying again.

6.20pm

We hang out with Tasha and her mates for a bit, they drink cider and smoke loads of fags, and me and Amy share a Bounty.

6.45pm

Tasha and her mates walk us back to the car park. Everyone from the party is stood outside waiting for their parents to pick them up. Sammy’s with them saying goodbye, when she sees me she starts laughing again with the other girls.

Tasha looks over at them and shouts ‘Shut the fuck up you tragic little slags!!’ All of Tasha’s mates start shouting too, one even say’s the C word!  All the Spice girls stop laughing, and Sammy starts crying. Sammy’s dad comes out and tells the Goths to piss off but they just start laughing and Tasha say’s something about seeing Elvis’s ball sack.

6.50pm

Amy’s Mum pulls up and we jump in the car. Through the back window I watch the Goths shouting at Elvis and the Spice Girls. Then I notice Liam Gallagher looking straight at me and I stick my middle finger up at him.










Monday, 17 October 2016

THE LIE



Today

10am

It’s Harvest Festival at school. Usually, I like Harvest Festival because we have a massive assembly, which means we don’t have to do any work for a whole morning, and just have to sing songs about food and Jesus instead.

Every year for Harvest Festival, Mrs. Minty the school receptionist, asks us to bring food in for poor people. Before she takes it to the church, she makes a massive display in the assembly hall so everyone can see how much food we’ve got. Everyone’s pointing out what they’ve bought in, if I was in a better mood I’d look in the display for the out of date tin of beans and sausages Nanny Pam gave me to hand in, but I’m too busy worrying.

Yesterday I told a really big lie.

                                                                  ********
Yesterday

12.30pm

Some people from my class are sat on the climbing frame in the playground talking about stuff.  I’m stood underneath, by the slide, with my cousin Amy listening to them all, and looking at Tom. Tom say’s that Jet and Wolf from Gladiators were in Coventry opening a new Safeway on Saturday, and his mum saw them! Lisa tells Tom how she went to see Gladiators with her Aunty and that she saw Shadow outside afterwards. I feel weird watching Lisa talk to Tom, my tummy starts to flip round, and before I can think, I start telling Tom and everyone else the lie.

‘I was at Safeway on Saturday with my Nan, because she wanted to try a frothy coffee in the new cafe and I met Jet…’

Everyone looks down from the climbing frame at me. Lisa starts laughing and says ‘Yeah right, chinny chin chin’  (Everyone say’s chinny chin chin at the moment when people lie, it’s one of the stupidest things I‘ve ever heard).

Amy is staring at me, she knows I was at her house watching TV all weekend, but I stare her out, and try to tell her to shut her face with my eyes. She doesn’t say anything.

I feel really hot and know I’ve gone red but I can’t stop lying, I say ‘I did meet her, ask my Dad, I got her autograph.’

Lisa says ‘Bring it in tomorrow then!’

I say I will, and then go to the toilet because I feel like my whole tummy is going to come out of my mouth. I lock myself in a loo and start crying.

Amy knocks on the door. She says ‘Are you ok Holl? What are you going to do?’

I tell her that I don’t know, and that I think I’m going to have to move school which makes Amy cry too because she can be a bit soft like that sometimes.

3.30pm

I run out of my classroom even faster than usual and grab my little brother Josh,
who is in the little school cloakroom trying to do his zip up. I yank his coat shut and make him run up to Dad who’s waiting in the playground for us.

I whisper to Dad ‘Don’t say anything to anyone we need to get to the car and go home now’.

3.40pm

In the car on the way home, I tell Dad all about the lie and start crying again. I ask him if we can drive to the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham where they make Gladiators and try to meet Jet.

Dad says he’s got a better plan.

5.00pm

I don’t eat any dinner, even though it’s my favourite, Findus Crispy Pancakes, I’m too nervous about Dad’s plan.

I go and get my autograph book from my special box in mine and Jenny’s room. Nanny Pam bought it for me when we went to meet Shefali, the weather girl from Midlands today, at West Orchards Shopping Centre last year. So far it only has Shefali’s signature in, but it’s about to have Jet’s.

Dad practices what he thinks Jet’s signature might be for a bit and I write what I think Dad should put in the book, on a scrap piece of paper:

Dear Holly,

It was really cool meeting you in Safeway on Saturday. When you’re eighteen you can definitely be a Gladiator with me and Wolf! I’ll speak to John Anderson and see if we can get you in soon for a VIP tour and a go on the Travelator.

Friends Forever,

Jet xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

6.00pm

Dad says that it will look more real if we just write ‘To Holly, Love Jet ’, because she wouldn’t have time to write a lot.

Dad does big girly writing, draws a smiley face inside the o in love and does a big X at the end.

                                                                    ******

Today

11am

When we walk out of assembly I spot the beans and sausages on the display table next to a bottle of Orange Tango and a box of Mint Matchmakers, I think about someone having all that for dinner and it makes me feel a bit better.

I sneak back to my classroom and keep my head down when I walk to my table, I can feel everyone looking at me. Lisa comes over and say’s ‘Did you bring it then?’. I pull out my autograph book and can feel my hands shaking, Tom comes over with Kevin to have a look as well.

I open the first page and Tom asks ‘Who’s signature is that?’ I tell him it’s Shefali’s and say that I met her at West Orchards last year. He says ‘You met Shefali? What was she like?’


Lisa looks at her shoes while I tell Tom all about how me and Nanny Pam met Shefali, and how nice she is, and that she told us what the weather was going to be like for the next few days, before she’d even said it on the news. Then I show him Jet’s signature but he’s not really as bothered. Lisa goes back to her table in a sulk, and me and Tom talk about other stuff for a bit.

Monday, 12 September 2016

JACKIE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE




3.00pm

Me and my little brother Josh are playing out with the kids who live on the next block, Kaliegh-Anne and Levi. Kaliegh-Anne is my age and her little brother Levi is the same age as Josh. The whole of Eastern Green calls their mum and dad, Jackie Potato, because their mum’s name is Jackie and their dad looks like a Potato.

Everybody says Jackie Potato are nutters, and that when Potato disappeared for six months last year he was in prison for nicking rare birds eggs (as if you can go to prison for that!). I don’t mind them though.

 Jackie is really shouty, even when she’s in a good mood she shouts, ‘DO YOUSE WANT ANY SQUASH?’. She sometimes buys us McDonalds when we go round though, and lets us go on her running machine in the garage. She’s really thin, has black hair that she spikes up at the back, and always wears heels, even her slippers have heels on! I think that she could be anywhere between thirty and fifty years old, she wears so much make-up you can’t see her real face.

Potato eats Doritos and watches sport on the telly all day with the curtains shut, I’ve never heard him speak or even seen him move (there’s no way he’d get up a tree!).

Me and Kaliegh-Anne are helping the boys build a den out of the grass that’s just been cut on their block. The boys are collecting all the grass and we’re making walls.

3.15pm

Josh starts crying. When I look round there’s a load of older kids from Tile Hill with water guns, they’ve soaked Josh and now they’ve started on Levi who has ran onto his front lawn and is banging the door for Jackie to let him in.

Jackie opens the door and goes totally nuts at the Tile Hill lot, they laugh at her and call her a mouthy cow, which makes her turn red and lob one of her heels them. Once we’ve all ran inside Jackie slams the door. From the blurry porch window we can see the Tile Hill kids sitting on the grass out the front. They wreck the boy’s den and start squirting the neighbours windows.

3.30pm

Jackie smokes loads of fags to calm down and Potato switches from the football to the cricket.

Jackie Potato’s house is like ours on the outside but inside its really different. Everywhere has flowery wallpaper that’s gone yellow, and there’s a light up picture of Jesus next to Jackie’s ashtray on the coffee table. Above the fake fire there’s a massive family photo that they got done in West Orchards Shopping Centre. In it, Jackie and Kayleigh-Anne are in matching pink dresses, Levi’s in a little suit, and Potato is in the massive John Smiths t-shirt he always wears.

Jackie says she recognised one of the lads, and that his mum works on the make-up counter in Debenhams. I think she’s going to phone his Mum up at Debenhams but she comes up with another plan.

3.35pm

We all go into the garage with Jackie and she digs out two Supersoakers and some water bombs, which we take into the kitchen. Jackie gets a massive jug out of a cupboard and tells us all to fill it with any liquid we can think of. Jackie pours in a load of milk and I put some Robinson’s Tropical Fruits in, then Levi adds some vinegar. Kayleigh-Anne gets some Toilet Duck out from the cupboard under the sink but Jackie says, ‘I ain’t going back to court for those little shits!’ and makes her put it back.

3.50pm

Once we’ve filled the jug me and Kaleigh-Anne help Jackie to fill up the supersoakers and waterbombs with Jackies Marevelous Medicine. I start to think that maybe Jackie is a proper nutter and that I might need to take Josh home.

Before I can make up an excuse Jackie starts shoving me into one of the yellow macs you get free on the log flume at Drayton Manor. I look round and Kayleigh-Anne has one on too. Jackie hands us a water gun each and pushes us out the door.

The Tile Hill kids laugh their heads off when they see us, and start shooting water at me and Kayleigh-Anne. We start pumping up the water guns slowly at first, but when they start calling us soggy slags we go for it! Kayliegh-Anne’s ready before me and starts shooting at them. 

They keep laughing at us, and the girls in the gang do really stupid screams and tell the boys that they’re wet. Then when they realise their tops are stained and they smell like tropical milk and vinegar, they stop laughing and do real screams.

Jackie comes up behind us laughing like mad. Levi and Josh are handing her water bombs and she’s lobbing them at the kid’s who have started to run away.

Josh tries to chase one of the boys with a water bomb and trips. The boy turns back and starts kicking Josh in the face. We all jump on the him, but he won’t stop kicking. I start screaming and crying, but before I can run to our block to get help, Potato comes out and grabs the boy by his feet. Jackie grabs his arms and they drag him down the grass toward the brook. Potato has dark green circles around his armpits on his t-shirt and sounds like he’s just run a marathon after smoking a thousand fags. (THERE’S NO WAY HE’D GET UP A TREE!!!)

I start worrying about the boy. I’ve fell in the brook loads. It’s not very deep so you can’t drown in it, but when I have fallen in, mum’s made me have a bath with a whole bottle of Dettol in, because she says there’s rat wee in the brook and that can make you really poorly. What if the boy doesn’t know about the Dettol?

When they get to the brook the boy is crying and shaking, they let go of him right by the edge and he gets up and legs it.

I grab Josh and start legging it too! 

4.00pm

When we get home mum cleans Josh’s face, he’s just a bit scratched but Mum makes his favourite butter and sugar sandwich to cheer him up. I tell Mum all about Jackie Potato and she says Kayliegh-Anne and Levis can come and play round ours next time.







Wednesday, 3 August 2016

SMOKING WITH GRANDAD


11am

Some older kids have started hanging out on the green in front of our house. They’re all dressed in black, and Jenny said that they’re called Goths.  One of them is called Tasha, and, the other day, she started talking to me. I like her we hate the same things like school, Baby Spice and orange Tic-Tacs.

Tasha said she would call on me today and we could hang out together, so I’m getting ready. I find my long black velvet skirt that I usually where with my orange velvet top to school disco’s and family parties, but today I’m going to wear it with Jenny’s black shirt that I’ve just started fitting into. I look in Mum and Dad’s chest of drawers for anything else that’s black and find Dad’s black tie he wears for job interviews and funerals.

11.30am

I go downstairs and ask Dad if I can borrow his tie and if he can put it on for me. Dad asks,  ‘Are you sure you want to wear this Holl. It’s thirty degrees outside?’ I tell Dad that I’m sure and think that he doesn’t really get Goths.

Mum and Dad said I could hang out with Tasha as long as I stay on the green outside our house where they can see me.

12.00pm

When Tasha knocks at the door, I run downstairs to answer it. She’s wearing a long black coat and has loads of black make up on.

We sit on the green for a bit and talk about things we hate. Tasha says that she needs to go to Happy Shopper, because it's the only place that will serve her fags. I look back at my house. When I left, Mum was writing an essay for college, and Dad was sat in the paddling pool, so I decide that they won’t notice me leave the green.

Tasha asks me if I’ve ever smoked, I lie and tell her I did on holiday last year. She passes me the fag she’s smoking and I put it in my mouth. Tasha tells me to inhale, but I hold my breath and take it out again because I don’t want cancer.

Tasha talks about all the things she thinks are tragic for a bit, which is pretty much anything.  Happy Shopper is tragic, a man picking up a dog poo outside Threshers is tragic, a window cleaner across the road is tragic, and people who like Terry’s Chocolate Oranges are tragic.

1.00pm

I feel sick when I see Grandad’s car pull up outside the shop. He gets out of his car, kicks the door shut and starts walking towards the shop.  I think he’s going to walk straight past, but he stops just before the entrance and sees me.

‘Bloody hell Holl! I didn’t recognise you there love. Why are you dressed like a vampire at a court appearance?’

I shrug my shoulders and remember the fag in my hand, which I pass back to Tasha.

 ‘I’m just picking up a few tins, but I’ll give you both a lift home, if you hang on’

When Grandad comes out the shop, we get in his car. It's full of all the usual junk. This time there’s a load of videos that say Titanic on them in Grandad’s handwriting. Grandad says, ‘Have you seen that film yet, Holl? You can give your friend a copy, if you like. It's not even out in Blockbusters yet! You’ll have to excuse the bit around two hours in though, where a shadow gets up to go to the bog, that’s bits not meant to be in the film.’

 Tasha say’s she doesn’t want a copy, because cheesy Hollywood films like that are tragic.

Grandad says, ‘You’re bloody right its tragic, love!  Over fifteen hundred people died on that on that boat…unsinkable my arse! Candy still cries when she watches it, and she’s seen it twelve times!’

Grandad won’t shut up. I feel really hot. I pull Dad’s tie to undo it, but it just makes it tighter and when I try to wind the window down the handle comes off in my hand.

‘And that poor bird Rose losing her boyfriend Jack like that, she went on to be a  pilot and do all sorts, you know, and she’s still alive today!’

I say, ‘I think they made that bit up for the film Grandad.’

‘Fuckin’ ell Holl, the Titanic’s not just a film you know! This shit happened, I tell you what I’m bloody glad I don’t pay any tax, it’d be wasted on your shite arse education.’

I want Grandad to stop talking, so I don’t argue with him.

‘Anyway, Holl, I noticed you were smoking outside the shop, and I’m not one to stop you. Forty a day for forty years and look at me, apart from the asthma, psoriasis and angina, I’m doing pretty well for fifty-eight. So, love, help yourself to the fags in the back. I got a load of them from Turkey. They’re practically giving them away out there. Candy said she wants a new extension and I said I’d build her one out of fag boxes, I’ve got that many of em’!’

Grandad looks at me in his car mirror, ‘You hear that, Holl?  I said I’d build an extension for Candy out of fag boxes…anyway, go on light up.’

Tasha shoves loads of fags into her bag and then lights one for us each. I just hold it and feel hotter than ever, and like I might be sick and choke to death at the same time.

1.20pm

Tasha asks if she can get dropped off at hers on the way back. She lives in one of the big new houses near the Co-op and her front garden has a gnome playing golf on it. She jumps out the car and shouts at us, ‘Cheers for the fags, yeah...!’

Grandad turns to me and says, ‘How are you feeling love? You’re looking a bit peaky. You won’t wanna knock around smokin’ with Tuesday Adams anymore will yer? And what were you doing outside Happy Shopper?  There’s some right scrotes hangin’ round there.’

I start crying and tell Grandad I just want to go home.

1.30pm

We get back to my house.

Mum asks me where I have been, and says that she was really worried. Grandad says,  ‘She’s been with me. I gave her and Rocky Horror a lift to the shops.'

‘She stinks of bloody smoke, Dad.  I told you I don’t want you chainin' it around the kids anymore. I’m sick of having to wash their clothes every time they see you.’

Grandad says that he’s sorry, and winks at me.