I like to have a theme to each year. Last year was The Year of Yoga and this year it is The Year of Writing. I am back. On Thursday mornings I skip along to St. Mark’s church in St. John’s Wood and join the academic writer, Alice Leader and her band of merry enthusiasts. We drink tea, eat mandarins and laugh a great deal. The course is entitled The English Comic Novel. It is the highlight of my week.
Then too soon it is Monday afternoon and I am at City Lit in Covent Garden squirming under the eagle eye of Steve Bradfield who can spot a switch of Point of View before we even take our work out of our bags. If, as one writer dared, you feebly put up your hand to ask a question or attempt to add to the discussion he says “No you cannot, just listen”. We do not eat mandarins.
“He’s really good this term,” said a fellow writer as I was making a hasty exit after the first session.
“Really?” I said sidling past, my eye on the door.
“Oh yes, he was shouting a lot last term.”
I’m already petrified and am unusually quiet for me, head down, concentrating. Each of us in turn read out the pieces that we work on at home. For some reason, and I thank whoever it is in heaven who is looking out for me, he passes me by. Other writers have read at least twice. Each week I hurry home for another week of frantic editing.
This is a little piece I wrote for last week’s class – How My Parents Met - which I am happy to share with you but for god’s sake don’t let Steve Bradfield see it.
My mother wore glasses as a teenager but not when she went out dancing. She stayed close to the wall and her girlfriends informed her, in whispers, whenever they noticed boys looking her way. She would smile hesitantly across a blurred dance floor that separated the boys from the girls. My father walked the length of the room in his new suit and Winklepickers to ask her to dance. Her eyes may have been weak but she knew how to move to the ‘50s rock rhythm and so did my father.
When the band stopped playing, he enquired whether she would like a drink. She knew it was sophisticated to ask for a gin and tonic but she asked instead for a bitter lemon.
“Bitter lemon?” he replied incredulously.
He pronounced the word “bitter” without sharp sounding “t”s but she liked a man who could dance, even if he was a cockney. He took her hand as he led her away from the dance floor and she wondered if this was a man who wouldn’t mind about her glasses.
Years and two children later, they still rocked together at parties or in the kitchen when one of “their” songs came on the radio. My father would lead my mother by the hand, all the time watching her face, confidently turning her and reeling her in and out to the beat.