When I was posting an event on Facebook earlier for my latest Glass Houses signing in Newark, and when I was so excited to see lots of familiar faces from my past and present showing their interest, I remembered a story-cum-memoir about my move to Newark in the late 70s.
|Much-loved Newark Market Place|
I remembered the account as being quite an amusing tale. However, re-reading it now, I found it quite emotional. This wasn't just about the plunge back into those first few terrifying weeks of life for a ten year old in a new town, although the memories did make me gulp a little, nor was it much to do with the throwback to the 'sandshoes' incident which will always make me cringe. It was the reminder of the friends I'd made and how much had happened before I left Newark eight years later, which made me sniff a little.
Suffice it to say, I am ridiculously excited about going back to Newark for a book signing at Stray's Bookshop and Coffee Bar on Saturday 12 November. Local folk, or if you just fancy a day out in Newark ("Yes, it's on the train line to London."), I would love you to come and say hello. As you may have noticed, wherever I sign a book, I'm never far from a quality, often quirky, bookshop café and Stray's is no exception. More details here.
I hope you enjoy the beginning of Home is Where the Pin is. Click on the link to my website at the end of the extract if you'd like to know what happened to Poe (name changed to protect his identity :)
“Sandshoes,” I said. That was all it took. Would we need our sandshoes for the PE lesson in the hall with the piano, stage and non-sport related paraphernalia pushed to the side? I’d come from a middle school, you see. We had timetables and different teachers. And French. And we certainly didn’t have a hall-cum-theatre. Oh no! We had a gym. In our gym we wore sandshoes, unless we were doing gymnastics and then we had bare feet.
It seemed a safe question to me in this terrifying place that was Farndon Primary School, where, if people did understand what I was saying, they certainly weren’t letting on.
“Say it again without the ‘man’ in it,” one eleven year old ordered.
“It’s not ‘why aye’,” said another with more of a snarl, “it’s ‘yes’, just ‘yes’, you ‘dimler’.” This was Poe. He had white hair and tight blue eyes, thin lips which never really moved, even when he spoke, just rested on the slim gap between them. From that moment on, Poe ruled that I would be known as ‘Y Eye’.
Did we need to wear our sandshoes in the hall? Get it wrong and the laughter would start all over again. Had I realised that my question would be the cause of such mirth, pre-pubescent children writhing around in hysterics like the Martians in the Smash advert, I would have simply waited until the last minute, risked a telling off from Miss - considerably preferable to the ridicule of my peers - and taken my lead from others in the group.
I was only a day into my eight weeks with a class of children a year older than me; the only room in June to be found at the inn at this late stage in the season. My antenna for derision-inducing-dialect was becoming more proficient but it was still an imperfect model: more of an Apple 1 computer than a MacBook Pro.
“Ignore them,” Sarah said, a lone voice in the cacophony of references to deserts, sweaty feet, beach towels and deck chairs. She was my buddy, assigned to look after me, and she rose to the challenge as best her eleven year old self could.
“Enough!” Miss said, “Goodness, not everybody’s from Farndon!” No, they weren’t but I wasn’t sure my classmates needed any reminding.
I don’t remember whether we did or didn’t need sandshoes that day but I can vouch for a ‘sandshoe’ being a ‘plimsoll’ ever since.../cont'd here