ASKING FOR IT

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“Linda Maaary!” yelled my Scouse-Irish-Catholic mother —who hated being known by her full churchy name of Patricia Anne Veronica. Sounded like a bloody nun, so of course, me being me, I used to prefix it with Sister – just because it sounded so niiice next to Patricia. This was assonance and I didn’t know it.

“What are you hiding? I can read you like a book.”

Apparently, everybody always could – except me. I had no idea who I was.

I’m not one of those womb-writers who’s been at it since conception. I haven’t always wanted to write. But this: I’ve always written. And because I always did, everyone else decided that’s what I was going to do. I denied it, of course – and then went and wrote about my desire for people to drop the subject.

Having my father for a dad helped me with my denial. When I was ten, he found an I Hate My Dad note of mine. This was the start of the YOU-MUSTN’T-WRITE-IT’LL-GET-YOU-INTO-TROUBLE crap. And I believed this horseshittery, my brain of a decade not realising he was only thinking about himself. Didn’t talk to me for a fortnight, either. Rather than employ a little introspection and find out why his daughter detested the shit out of him, he sent me to Coventry—a place I visited far too often as I was growing up. And whilst I was there, I would write tales of paternal detestation on West Midlands paper.

And I hid the lot. Sometimes, I’d even shred the stuff—once the words were out of me, there was no need for me to keep any of ‘em.

High school was appallingly bad – well, at least the first one was. There, I was bullied for being too pretty and having Jaggerlips and being too fucking smart (although, if that latter bit had been true, then surely I’d have had a good comeback).

I particularly enjoyed Latin class – but each time I tried to enthuse to my father, all he’d do was have a fucking go at me for my Dave Lister accent. I’m FUCKING SCOUSE, DAD. I’M GONNA OMIT THE T. OKAY? Hear me speak: La-in, La-in, La-in. (This from a chick who now hates the current trend for leaving the ‘t’ sound out of ‘bottle.’ I must get it from him. Bollocks. Although technically, I’m something of a diluted Scouser now, having been over the water for thirty-odd years *shudders*.)

Crappy parenting was the bible of my life. Dad in particular would sit and pray that nothing would happen to me and my two brothers, without actually doing anything to protect us. Cut to: me, aged fourteen, getting pissed with scally schoolmates and brainbanging to student music on art centre Thursdays.

I dunno – maybe praying worked for the first year, when nothing happened to me during my wannabe-mosher phase. But my father’s god must have stopped listening by the time I was fifteen and taken advantage of by two lads from the year above. I use that ghastly euphemism because you say “rape” and you say “victim.” I was never a victim. I was pissed. I couldn’t remember it. I recall being on the streets, screaming for help for whatever reason, but I had no real knowledge of WHY. 

Until the day after.

At art class, I knew something wasn’t right —and it wasn’t just the too-much-Merrydown feeling. So, I checked my soft bits, as y’do. Blood. Told the teacher. The teacher told the headmaster.

Sirens.

Me: Bundled into a police car.

Me: On a living autopsy table. Tweezers pulling out my short-and-curlies, photos being taken for medical journals. Swabs, evidence bags filled with the clothes I’d been wearing. A bit of prodding, a lot of whispering.

There’s a shitload of cuts, they said (kind of). So they showed me in a mirror. Fuck—they were right. I saw purple bruising on my inner thighs and hold-her-down marks where they’d grabbed my arms.

I started—continued—to remember.

I felt like shit—I’d betrayed my Catholic Parents and their god by way of pre-marital rape. Not that I knew anything about that—my experience was limited to a bit of bike-sheds fumbling. I remember having asked my dad at age nine what a virgin was, only to be told that it was “A man who has not lain down next to a lady.” Wow, Dad. Just wow (at that particular juncture, I freaked out about the fact that my male cousin and I had slept next to each other in a fucking tent the weekend before).

I was a harlot. So I wrote poetry about harlotry.

Dad blamed a—gasp!— sexually adventurous friend of mine, and because I’d been knocking around with her, I must be the same, right? She’d been there that night, so the bizzies called her in to give a statement. Turns out she’d heard me calling for help, when I hadn’t heard myself—but as she’d been busy round the back of the art centre getting some consensual action, she’d presumed I was having the same kind of fun and paid no attention.

They called the lads in. They’d heard I was easy because of the person I knocked around with. So, seeing me, pissed as a fart, they’d gone for it, kecks down. I guess I was asking for it, huh?

They took my statement as I dictated to WPC Carter. With my upside-down eyes, I watched her write—and I watched her make grammatical error after grammatical error. The only way I could put it right was to come home and write my own version.

Then they called me back. They asked me about my own fooling-around adventures. Made me describe in front of my parents what a blowjob was. They wanted a fucking mime of it, too. CLEARLY, this would have given the lads just cause to do what they did. If they could prove I’d given some lad a beej, then those two lads were perfectly within their rights to do what they did. Out of the mouths of the local constabulary: “You led them on.”

They were clearly right, because I’d been somewhat sluttily-dressed. Said they. Said my father. Fishnets, more of a belt than a skirt—totally my fault. ASKING for it.

Dad brought in a tape recording he’d made that night. He’d taped me reading the newspaper, with the intention of playing it back the next day to shame me for daring to get pissed. The cops listened. They realised how leathered I was and therefore how non-consensual the event. But it didn’t matter. The head of the school—according to my mum—was a Freemason and had police connections. Didn’t want the scandal on his school. (I’m still unconvinced. Maybe he was just a twat.)

Rape Crisis were about as much use as something that’s no fucking use at all. They persuaded fucked-up and fucked little young me to drop the charges. It was apparently in my best interests because I was Just.Too.Young to cope with THE STAND and being cross-questioned.

So the two lads walked. (One of them also walked into a knife a year or so later in an entirely unrelated park incident.)

I was kept off school for about six weeks, during which time the bullying continued—this time, at my house. We were pelted with stones and eggs and there was a brick through the window. I was a whistleblower, a snitch.

SLAG and SLUT were other things I was, apparently. Eventually, I went all Tyler Durden on the cock of the school, and punched her fucking gobshite face in. Not all of the blood on my shirt was mine. But that, too, was my fault. And why? Well, according to the father, I was a nymphomaniac. Thanks again, Dad.

The bullying got too much for my parents, and I couldn’t keep on making people’s faces bleed. So I moved across the water. Started a new school. And because I was halfway through my exams, I chose to stay back a year because they couldn’t match up my subjects. My new school didn’t do my language of choice so I wrote a Latin letter of complaint to the council (as best you can do with a dead language), which was my own crappy way of trying to keep it alive.

There was a bit of hushery amongst my classmates…why is she older than us? Why is she here? Is she that STUPID she has to stay back? And when an entirely new set of bullies realised I was a libraryload smarter than them, that just coaled their fire. Dad made it clear I wasn’t allowed to actually come out and say what had happened to put me there, because SHAME.

But paper actually put out the flames. Books fanned me into existence.

I found Shakespeare. I was nurtured by an incredible English Lit teacher who knew just what made me tick in beats of five-by-two. I read Chaucer without having to have it translated for me—I’d found my own rhythm. FINALLY! People who spoke my weird-ass language!

But there was a problem. I was an (*almost) straight-A student. This confused the shit out of me—being equally good at everything meant I didn’t excel at anything. So, when it came to university, it didn’t come to university. I didn’t go. I had no fucking idea what I wanted to do. Critiquing the crap out of Orwell and Priestley wasn’t gonna get me a day job. So I went home and wrote sci-fi stories whilst applying for interviews in any fucking field going.

(*Geography can fuck off.)

Forensics and I had a brief dalliance simply because I fucking love science (pretty sure this had something to do with the living autopsy I’d had at age 15). I could help people, I thought. But life in the bacti-lab was no fun, and aside from a guy’s thumb—kept pickled in the fridge—I never did get to see anything dead. YAWN. Wrote a horror short about the experience, entitled RIGID DIGIT, but no … I wasn’t a writer. I refused to be a writer.

I dabbled in journalism at Radio City and qualified in the subject whilst I was there. Did a bit of vox-popping and radio production, a touch of tape-splicing, and more than a thumbful of twiddling. Whilst I do have a great face for radio, I fell into critique. Ended up working for a shall-remain-nameless rag. Told it like it was. Was asked to tailor my style to that of their own house: arse-kissery for the sole purpose of shitnosing a bunch of Think-Themselves-Very-Important People. Was asked (again) to write (a lot) less like me and instead use someone else’s voice. I resigned; I couldn’t be the mortar to a house whose unimaginative bricks had already fallen. Didn’t stop reviewing, though. Loved it. Daily trips to the flicks (it was cheap back then) resulted in wonderful rants. But friends kept telling me to write my own stuff. I can’t, I’d say. I have no imagination, I’d say. I’d rather just get a movie and perform an autopsy on it, I’d say. Get it on my little wordy slab and explain its anatomy. Describing why a film is so utterly fucking watchable (or switchoffable) was the only thing I was any good at (or, ‘at which I was any good’).

Spat my dummy out. Again. Read a bit more Orwell. Ate a bit more Shakespeare. Headached through A Brief History of Time. Wrote some stories. Poed some poems. Drank in JB Priestley after he’d imbibed a bit of Jung, and then went and wrote a 15,000 word ‘essay’ about my own little time theories.

And then … after receiving my review for his spec script, a super-bad badass screenwriter told me I was a better writer than he’d ever be. And – holy fuckballs: I believed him. And I believed in myself for the first time. I went home, dug out the unshredded, and read. I then proceeded to desk-bang my noggin to knock out the stupid. It worked.

So I started writing … and, slowly, offers started coming in. Publishment, Screenwordery, editing gigs, all of it. And after decades of denial, I finally accepted that this part of me should be allowed out. And now she’s out, here shall she stay.

So – why do I write? It’s simple: I was asking for it.

Wilfred’s Men

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A poet’s shattered soul reacts to crumpled men with words intact

Recalling lies as glory folds, one verse – yet many stories told:

Our Wilfred said they’d cursed through sludge, towards their distant rest they’d trudged

And Wilfred’s men had lost their boots but limped on, blind, deaf to the hoots

There, Wilfred saw a hanging face – as death came to his writing-place

So we could read -at every jolt- of gargled blood to our revolt

If Wilfred knew – if he could see -dead men survived by poetry

What would he say – and would he be surprised his words adored by me?

Adored by age, revered by youth, for hitherto-unspoken truth.

If he were now – if he were here, would Wilfred to the world endear?

Or is it likelier he’d see: the sale of arms, cash weaponry?

And then the fight to stop it all, this great divide as countries fall?

Perhaps for now, hypocrisy – humanity’s mobocracy:

And as he rhymes of this or that, he’d write: Manus Manum Lavat.

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