I am back on the prose project again (I won’t say the N word in case it comes and smacks me on the head for leaving it so long). Still keeping an eye on doing something with poems but last year was not hugely encouraging. I need to keep sending out, and will.
The project I’m working on has a first person narrator and draws from autobiographical experience but the narrator is not me. This is something of a relief as I wasn’t sure at the outset because she and I share so many details, including some years at an inner London primary school in the 1960s, which is where I am now with it. I wish I’d known how childhood stays with you forever, I would have eaten even more sweets, my teeth couldn’t have been any worse than they were. Whatever difficulties had to be negotiated in the classroom, the playground or at dinner time (slugs hiding under the salad cream, gristle in the stew and fearsome dinner ladies) you knew that sweets would always be there for you – cheap, reliable, plentiful. Even the poorest kids seemed able to afford those. You could get four chews for a penny and a generous bag of fluorescent sherbet for tuppence. Actually, I am not writing about the sweets at the moment, but it’s good to know that they are there in the background and the writing, I feel sure, will want to go there at some point. Sweet cigarettes, though (remember those?), have made an appearance. They were basically the same as what are now sold as “candy sticks”, but with a red tip at the end so you could pretend you were smoking them, and they used to have cards with pictures of footballers that you could swap with the boys for a bit of liquorice shoelace. Bazooka bubblegum could last a whole day if you stuck it under the desk in between sessions.
It seems hardly believable now that the girls and boys playgrounds were separated by a brick wall, but that is how it was, and we had our own entrances too. If a girl tried to play in the boys playground she was called a Tomboy and if a boy came into the girls playground he was a Cissy. You wouldn’t want to be called either of those things, but being a Tomboy was fractionally easier than being a Cissy as it carried with it a smidgeon of respect borne out of fear.
The narrator has an easier time of it than I did, not having lived in Germany and come back to England with an accent (not to mention the weird haircut and Lederhosen), but there will obviously be other complications in her life because, as Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes) says, “the happy childhood is hardly worth your while.” She is, though, optimistic and resourceful and it is another child’s predicament that becomes the catalyst for events that unfold.
But why am I talking about it when I could be writing it? Well one reason is that I am bog-tired after driving through a pea-souper of fog in the small hours to collect Son from somewhere or other in the middle of blasted heath after his return from Dublin. And then I couldn’t sleep. And when I did I woke again after only a few hours. And today I have a trip to Lewes. And – most interestingly – whenever I sit down to write the Project I kind of gear up for it because it counts as Work, but whenever I sit down to put words onto blog, I just do it.
Yes, I know.