Monday, 11 May 2009

Make A New Plan, Stan

So. Here I am. In the North. To be more precise, I’m in a small town in the North-East of England called Winnet Bay. Or does that sound ridiculous? OK then, what about Cackpool? No? Shingle? Poocastle? Doleford? Sullywell? Glumley? Grimsdale? Or maybe you’re thinking, ‘Why have a made-up name at all, you big faker? And why does it have to have such negative associations?’ Well, you make good points. You shit. Allow me to address them.

It has to have a fictional name because that’s the way things are around here. I’ve got a fictional name. Melanie’s got a fictional name. You’ve probably got a fictional name yourself. So why not Grimsdale? Besides which, I like fictional places. I like Coketown and Ulverton and Gotham City. I like Ambridge and Amity Island and Notting Hill, in the film, Notting Hill. I’d like to make one of them. And also, I don’t want any of you crazies coming after me. I know what you’re like.

As for the negative connotations, that’s all based on my one and only previous foray into the North, last April, when everything seemed sour and hypocritical. But maybe it was just me.

So, for now at least, I’m sticking with Grimsdale, but I reserve the right to change the name to Blissford or Idyllsex whenever I damn well feel like it. And I hope with all of my heart that I shall.

So. What the hell am I doing here? In the heart of Grimsdale. Well, I’ll tell you.

Last year, after a great many years of estrangement, my father and I became reacquainted. One of the many consequences of our reunion - one which was remarkable and completely unforeseen - was meeting my grandparents for the first time. As a child, I never knew them. They were never mentioned. As far as I was aware, they didn’t exist.

My awareness however, was skewed. Turns out they did exist. They were just hidden away, deep in the arse-crack of England. Sadly, the distance from Grimsdale to London meant that when I finally did get to meet them, I only got to enjoy a couple of brief visits before one of them went and died.

Alma and Ray Kingfisher were not, strictly speaking, my grandparents. Alma is my grandmother, but Ray was her second husband, so no blood relation – not that it matters. They met and married when they both in their sixties, a fact which fills me with utter joy. Imagine falling in love in your sixties! Life is amazing. Keep hope alive! It’s never too late! All that.

So they had sixteen years together, which is no small achievement.

In the end, Ray Kingfisher died from renal complications, but there was lots of stuff not right in his insides and he’d been ill for a couple of years.

To make matters much worse for Alma, the day after Ray’s funeral, she had to go into hospital to have an operation on her left foot. Apparently she had the equivalent of limescale on her bones so she had to be cut open and scraped. Human bodies are cruel. And when she returned home, she found herself quite suddenly all alone, shambling round her empty flat with no one to talk to. So, as there was no one else available to look after her, I volunteered. I asked Alma if she would like some company for a few months while she picks herself up and dusts herself off, and so on, and she said that she would.

Now before you toss yourself on the ground before me and start grovelling, insisting that you’re not fit to kiss my hairy hem, don’t do it. It wasn’t altruism which motivated me. Well, not chiefly. I also saw it as an opportunity to get out of London.

The house I lived in didn’t feel right. It was too sad. It was The House Where Things Went Wrong. It was haunted by memories of what might have been. Also, I’m skint and for the moment at least, can't afford London anymore. I haven’t worked for months. Rather I’ve been living off the modest advance I got for the book, the last half of which I spunked on rent for that damned house of broken dreams. And you know, it’s funny how the kitten never worked out. I got close a couple of times, but things never quite went according to plan. The garden never worked out either. Nothing about that place worked out in the end.

So I’ve come to Grimsdale, to spend some time with the grandmother I nearly never had, to properly explore this thing they call The North, to fight with the gargantuan incompetents at BT, and, very importantly, to write some stuff.

So. I'd better get on with it.

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hen said...


amy grace said...

That's really sweet of you, and wonderful you have the opportunity to spend time with your grandma. Cheers to your new surroundings and direction.

Maureen said...

Could be interesting, take the book in a whole new direction, if not be a whole book on its own. Follow your bliss and all that, Stan. The Man.

Megan said...

Quick bit of advice from a lass from the North-East (although I'm pretty sure that this counts for anywhere in England to be fair) If you see a charv (I despise the word 'chav', and anyway, we invented 'charv'), run. They're not to be tampered with, especially in the north east. Terrible tempers, I'll give you that.

Anonymous said...

i like fake names... "Urinetown" has been made into a musical. "Hope Falls" was my favorite from Bat Boy, The Musical.

be well. write lots. think of all the new characters you can dream up...

Melissa said...

You did the right thing getting out of the broken dreams place, Bete. It's not healthy. Wishing you all the best in your current abode. Hey, at least you'll have plenty of fodder...

SugarCain said...

Ahhh. There you are.

Wisewebwoman said...

You had me at "Grandma".

Mrs. Holly Hall said...

that post, with you and Keith and the old man porn. That is why I come here.

damn good writing there.

I miss it.

K said...

I hope your new start goes well, sounds like you did the healthy thing, moving on and moving out :)

AndrewM said...

Try to sort out a decent local.

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

Wow, big changes!

Change is good. I am a big Change Advocate, being as how that's wot I'm currently doing in order to try and improve things.

Change is good, but change that has at its heart large doses of human contact, communication and altruism is even better. But don't forget to seek out other company besides Grandma.

Argh, am trying really hard not to quote lines from that awful 80s child-choir song about Grandma, which has now got stuck in my head.

confused said...

good luck up there! :-)

Anonymous said...

"Make a new plan, Stan", indeed. (And set yourself free)

Yes, isn't it just lovely that old people fall in love. And stay in love too. The couple who sold this house to me were in their early 80s and had lived here for 15 years. When I stripped the wallpaper in the bedroom, it revealed a huge (2ft) loveheart drawn on the wall, with their names written inside it. They must have been in their mid 60s when they drew that on their bedroom wall. (They married in their 20s, by the way).

Congratulations on finally getting the hell out of London. What took you so long?

I do hope you haven't moved to Grimsby. Not only would that mean that you've invented a feeble pretend name in Grimsdale, but it would also mean that you've moved to Grimsby. How unpleasant. The north east has many wonderful places, but Grimsby is not one of them.

Likewise, the north west is choc full of beautiful spots, but Burnley is not one of them.

Perhaps you're trying to out-slum NotKeith? (no offence to the inhabitants of Grimsby & Burnley - neither of which are slums. No, really).

And I imagine you're still being haunted by the bloody bonkers mental stalker, hence the fakery. What a blinking nuisance. That would drive me right up the bend potty, and no mistake.


Anonymous said...

I keep singing, 'Movin' on up. Nothing can stop me.' M(mm) people.

Mind you that could be the w(h)ine I'm guzzling.

How do your 'new' rellys react to your, 'Yes, I've written a book. I was discovered on a blog. The url is... um...' convo?


MsV said...

Hope the summer reaches you up there in Grimsdale....make it a bit fresher & shinier for you to enjoy the exploration of new :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, I love that! The grandma, the moving to the north, the fact that you do sort-of odd things (in a good way) and then write such great stories. I mean, the fact that whatever you do, you make it all sound so interesting, I guess that's what makes a good writer.
And the north (where I'm from, and in) is wonderful. Well, a lot of it is. It's much better than London anyway...
If you're anywhere near Newcastle, catch a train out west, it's such a beautiful journey, and maybe stop off at Haltwhistle - centre of Britain - and walk Hadrian's Wall and Vindolanda etc.
Best of luck with all you do.

martin said...

Mr Grimsdale was always in Norman Wisdom films. He (Norman) lives on Jersey.

seeeeee said...

My Grandmother married last year, aged 80. It was a beautiful thing, to be in a church full of old people and not be at a funeral!

I don't know about the North of England but I just moved North to Scotland and it was the best move I ever made. Good luck Bete.