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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.

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 get’s a whole 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 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 whole 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.’








Sunday, 6 August 2017

THE FUNERAL


2pm

Dad’s turned the taps on in the bathroom so we can’t hear him sobbing. He’s been in there for over an hour.

Jenny knocks on the door.

‘Dad, please come out, we need to talk about the funeral arrangements.’

Dad flushes the toilet, sobs a bit more then finally opens the bathroom door. Me and Jenny give him a big fat hug.

Yesterday our cat Tosca died.

2.30pm

From Mum and Dad’s bedroom window I watch Dad digging a big hole at the end of the garden. Carol from next door is pretending to check if her washing is dry, but I knows she’s just trying to see what Dad’s up to. Carol’s been dead nosey lately and I keep having to spy on her to see when she’s spying on us.

Dad’s been the saddest out of everyone about Tosca dying; I think she was probably Dad’s best friend. When he’s had a bad day at work he comes in and slags his boss off to Tosca while she sits on his lap purring her head off.

After a bit Dad stops digging and starts crying again. Mum comes out and strokes his back while Carol checks the same damp bra for the hundred millionth time.

I stare into the mirror in Mum and Dad’s room and start crying too. I watch the tears roll down my face while I think about Tosca, then I think about Tom and wether he’d fancy me if he saw how sparkly my eyes look when I cry.

3.00pm

I walk out into the garden, Dad’s nearly finished digging the hole. Carol shouts over the fence ‘You better make it deep otherwise the foxes will tear her to pieces’.

Dad shouts back, ‘Yeah, cheers Carol!’ Then whispers ‘You daft bint’.

Dad wants us all to wear black for the funeral to show our repect. Me and Jenny look in our room for stuff for black stuff. Jenny finds a black Kappa Tracksuit in a bag of old stuff our cousin Leanne gave us and I put on the outfit I wore when I was a goth for the day a few weeks ago.

3.30pm

In the garden Mum, Dad and Josh are already stood by Tosca’s grave. Dad’s wearing the suit he bought for Aunty Mandy’s wedding, Mum’s wearing a leather skirt and her black Bon Jovi t-shirt, and Josh is wearing his batman costume.

We all talk about our memories of Tosca for a bit. Jenny talks about the time Tosca got trapped in Carol’s house and pooed in her kitchen. Then Dad talks about when she was a kitten and followed him all the way to the Chip Shop. He had to put her in his inside jacket pocket while he ordered, and her little furry face kept popping out to sniff the fish.

Josh says, ‘Remember when she ate the hamsters?’ Mum tells him it’s not the right time to remember that story. Jenny reads a poem she wrote for Tosca and Mum says The Lord's Prayer.

I give Tosca one last stroke and tell her how much I love her, then Dad puts her in the hole and starts to cover her up with soil.

Josh keeps asking Dad all sorts of stupid questions like, ‘When can we dig her up again?’ I don’t think he gets things being dead yet.

4.00pm

We hear somebody trying to get in through the back gate. It’s Grandad! He swears his head off until he eventually opens it with a massive kick.

‘Bloody hell! Why didn’t you answer the front door? I was stood out there banging me arse off, until that miserable neighbour of yours told me you were having some sort of séance out ere’.

Grandad looks at Dad.

‘You got a court appearance or summit? I’d bang you up for wearing that baggy arsed suit alone.’

Jenny shouts at Grandad, ‘Tosca’s dead this is her funeral, now please show some respect!!!’

Grandad looks at mum, ‘Are you going to let her speak to her Grandad like that?’

Mum says, ‘She’s right Dad, now show some respect or piss off home’

Grandad goes red and looks really angry, but keeps his mouth shut for a bit.

I remember that I invited Nanny Pam to the funeral this morning, and she said she might come round for the wake after her shift on the fag counter. I secretly hope she can’t make it now that Grandad’s come round, I can’t be arsed with those two going at each other today.

4.30pm

Mum’s done a picky tea for Tosca’s wake. Grandad grabs a scotch egg and stuffs it into his face while he sits on the sofa and reads TV Quick. He gets little orange bits all over the pages and bits of grey meat and yellow egg come out of his mouth when he starts talking.

‘Repeat..repeat…seen it on pirate…that Lovejoy’s a smug prick…bloody national lottery! I had a fiver on and won eff all…repeat…now I’d like to go inside Linda Barker’s Changing Room…Noel Fuckin’ Edmonds…

 I can hear Nanny Pam’s heels clip clopping down our road and go to open the door.

‘Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry, you loved that cat didn’t you?’

Grandad shouts from the sofa, ‘Come for the free food have you Pammy?’

‘Don’t you start! I’ve had the day from hell! Maeve rang in sick this morning and someone tripped up on a pack of Camel Lights when I was doing the re-stock, said they’re gonna sue! So I don’t need you giving me jip n’all!

‘Alright calm down woman! You’re at a funeral you know, show some respect!’

Grandad winks at Jenny and she gives him one of her killer evils.

Nanny Pam sits down on the opposite side of the sofa to Grandad and I sit in the middle. Grandad picks off and eats a bit of Scotch Egg that was stuck to Anneka Rices's face, on the front cover of TV Quick, it leaves a a greasy mark on her cheek. Nanny Pam calls him a dirty pig under her breath.

I look over at the armchair Tosca used to sit in and start crying again. Sometimes she’d leave bits of dead birds on it, but that’s just nature, so I didn’t mind.

Nanny Pam hugs me, then Grandad wipes his  fingers on the side of the sofa and shuffles up to hug me too. Nanny Pam wriggles out the way when Grandad tries to put his arms round her as well. Nanny Pam's perfume mixes with Grandad's eggy fag breath, it makes me feel a bit sick so I slip down and off the sofa, leaving those two to jump back to opposite sides.

It’s getting dark and I walk to the end of the Garden where Dad is on his knees next to Tosca’s grave lighting candles. I kneel down next to him.

‘Are you ok Dad?’

‘I loved that cat’.





My Dad inspired this post a few weeks ago when, after a few beers he asked me if I’d be interested in breaking into our old house and sneaking into the garden with him. He wanted to exhume Tosca’s remains and repatriate her to his new garden. Mum talked him out of it, and Dad saying he’d ‘even ask the new owners permission’ didn’t seem to convince her for some reason.

I'd have loved to of seen the look on Carol's face!