Worzel Gummidge is on the telly. The father has a new calling in the new church to convert more converts, and also a job in London, driving a train in the underground. There is also Bletchley, a swimming pool with a slide, and hot chocolate, from the machine. He learns how long to brush his teeth, and also his talent for reading, but he is not allowed to watch Jesus Christ Superstar. The wrong Jesus. He is not a rock star.
An excerpt from my debut novel, Never Mind the Beasts, now available from Dostoyevsky Wannabe. This except takes place in Milton Keynes England, in Coffee Hall. It is the 1980s and the family has just been converted by Mormon missionaries from America.
Here is an an excerpt from Part One of my novel, Never Mind the Beasts, coming this month (May 2020) from Dostoyevsky Wannabe.
This excerpt takes place in Milton Keynes, Coffee Hall Housing Estate, on a street called Daniel’s Welch. It is the 1980s.
Field Day, the magic of bathtubs & Milton Keynes roundabouts, a pet gerbil, Copperfield Middle School lunch room, a popped football, peer pressures, Bletchley swimming pool, hot chocolate from a machine, brussel sprouts, a man in the bushes, play dough and Worzel Gummidge, a rock through an old woman’s window.
In the 1980s I lived in Coffee Hall, in Milton Keynes. Near coffee Hall, there was Bean Hill. The underpass between Beanhill and Coffee Hall was painted with a Wizard of Oz theme. Magic!
I went to Copperfield Middle School, now closed since 31/3/2004, and there was a special teacher: Miss Foster. It was the first time I connected with a teacher. She made a big impression. After the trauma of Northern Ireland, at the height of The Troubles, and having a Northern Irish accent in 1980s England, she was nurturing, made me feel I was good at something: reading. She called me to her desk, put the bookmark under the words, and I read and read. I was very shy. My face got hot. There was a little class library and I checked out the books. I read and read. A kind of salvation.
At Copperfield, there was a special trip to London, to see the Nutcracker. Afterwards, I stood on my tiptoes, spun and spun. I wanted to become a ballet dancer. There was a second trip, but I wasn’t allowed, it was for Jesus Christ Superstar. I was very religious.
The crowd is dangerous, and also liberating, but mostly dangerous. A mob. When you’re younger: peer pressure. When I lived in Milton Keynes, Coffee Hall housing estate, there was a place for playing football, next to the playground. I showed up in my red Liverpool kit. Liverpool was everything, especially Ian Rush. I wanted a mustache like Ian Rush, but this was long before I developed the ability to develop hair on my face.
The older lads were playing, and I didn’t get picked, so I dribbled my ball on the footpath and it popped in the bushes. I was painfully shy, with a funny Northern Irish accent, and the older lads felt protective. When they saw my popped ball they thought it was the lad on a bicycle. I went along with it, and it stuck with me, 39 years later. The scapegoat.
Here is a small excerpt, from my novel in Microfiction, Never Mind the Beasts, forthcoming in May 2020 from Dostoyevsky Wannabe. This one takes place in Milton Keynes, England, after the conversion, before immigrating to America. It is called “God is Watching You.”
Long ago, in another lifetime, I lived in Milton Keynes, England, on a government housing estate called Coffee Hall. Long ago, in another lifetime, I was knocked down by a car, in Portadown, with a poke in my hand. Long ago, in another lifetime, with my childhood friend Tina Adams, playing a game of stepping stones in my room with the toys, the big sea before us. Long ago, in another lifetime, in Milton Keynes, Coffee Hall estate, in the 1980s, playing Ivanhoe with the maiden and picking buckets of blackberries. Long ago in another lifetime playing frogger, playing chivalry, playing alone on a desert island.
Here is the microfiction, from my novel Never Mind the Beasts, a mix of microfictions and prose poems, part autofiction, forthcoming from Dostoyevsky Wannabe in May 2020. It is called “Survival of the Fittest.”
I have long admired the trifle. It is the crown jewel of English sweets. I often remember it at Christmas. I felt a bit of nostalgia for the trifle when I lived in America. My memories are often connected with Milton Keynes since that’s where we moved when we “immigrated” from Northern Ireland. I put immigrated in quotes because of the technicality of immigrating. But really, it was an immigration. Northern Ireland and England are two different cultures and countries. Of course they both speak forms of English but that doesn’t make them similar. Or at least completely similar. There is a lot of Scottish influence in Northern Ireland. And also Irish. Of course the Irish and Scottish are similar and also different. That’s the troubles. The English separated the Scottish and Irish and encouraged them to fight each other and then called it tribalism. A familiar tactic. It is called divide and conquer. No matter. Here is some more about trifles. Northern Ireland has trifle cakes too. And now that I am here, I hardly eat it. It is not as good as I remembered it. But then again what is. Everything is different from childhood. Smaller and less tasty usually. But the memory of something is often better than the actual event, object, or, in this case, food.
The trifle is the queen of English sponge cakes. Do you know how to make this cake? It is not too difficult. It is the strip tease of cakes.
Here is my poem about English trifles. It is part of my book in progress Play Yr Kardz Right. You can hear it over here: