Growing Up, 1975

I grew up this morning before dinner-time but I didn’t really know about it. I knew I wasn’t wetting myself cos it was too slow and it didn’t last that long. Miss Ryan wouldn’t let me go to the toilet because we’re supposed to go at playtime. When she came over in the end, I told her I was bleeding. Then she let me go. They were all whispering that I’d cut myself. I thought so too, but I wasn’t sure because it didn’t hurt like it should when you really cut yourself, like when you fall down skipping or you’re trying to catch someone when you’re ‘it’.

Mrs Watts, our nurse, she’s really nice. She gave me something for it and a pair of… fresh knickers. She keeps a spare set of clothes for things like that, she said. I had to wash mine out. She hung them up and I had to come back for them after school. Then we had a little talk.

When Mandy went back at lunchtime, Mrs Watts also had a letter in a sealed envelope for Mrs Green. Mrs Green read it, put it back in the envelope, tucked the flap in. Placed it on the telly, thought twice about it, picked it up and slipped it into her trouser pocket. Wendy was also home for lunch.

“You know what it is, don’t you?”

Mandy had told Wendy and Wendy had told their mum before Mandy summoned up the courage to give her the letter and the plastic bag which wasn’t see-through because her mum had a thing about see-through bags.

“You’re going to get in trouble!” was the first thing Wendy had said when she saw Mandy at the door in a skirt not her own.

“No I’m not. My skirt’s dirty.”

“You wet yourself at school!”

“No I didn’t! I got my period. So there!”

Wendy fell silent.

“You’ve got to tell mummy.”

“You tell her,  go on.”

“You know what it is, don’t you?” her mother asked – said more like –  as she placed a plate of spam, baked beans and chips in front of her nine year old daughter.

Mandy nodded, her eyes on the spam. It looked like white people.

“Good.” Mother went to fetch the squash.

(From Long Time Walk on Water)

‘Weaves love, self-discovery, race, class politics, immigration, and the British postcolonial imaginations into a beautiful tour de force. A moving account of black sojourners’ day-to-day in a new alien land as they tumble forward for a better life and belonging.’ (Amazon)

‘Beautifully crafted (…) will leave the reader as changed as Simon’s characters. Highly, highly recommended.’ (Amazon)


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mutatus poster by P INES 14-01-27

From the minute you stand on your side of the doorway, stepping back timidly to let me in, yes, of course, how could I have forgotten your face?

Quick, let’s retreat to your room.

On one knee, you finger a hole in a rug on the floor. Evaluating it like the bruise a child brings to you for solace. For a split second I feel invisible. When I remind you of the Breema exercises you wanted to show me, you say, we’ll do that later. The weather’s so nice, let’s go for a walk first.

Your wife gets a kiss on both cheeks from me as we meet up in the hallway and she pulls on a light jacket. Her face is leathery. Has something noble about it. I’d say she’s the natural fibre wearing type to have gone on anti-war demos, breastfed her children and smoked pot in her youth. Maybe even still does. Definitely still does. She’ll read meaningful books, bake her own bread, cultivate a herb garden. She’s the type to not shave her pubic hair. Something tells me she might also be prone to the odd migraine or depression. Her features are sad and remotely beautiful. I have no reason or inclination to hurt her.

Are you coming with us?

My question is sincere, tho I’d rather she didn’t come along but if she chose to, what the hell? There’ll be other times.

Erm, no, she says, her voice faint, as if she doesn’t really want to give it to me.

You take your keys and off we go. Did you say something to her before leaving? I can’t remember, though I do remember that the only kisses she got were from me.

This is the best ice-cream parlour in town, you assure me as we pick our way through the outdoor café tables  lancing shadows, oversized freckles, at our feet heading for somewhere less crowded. At last, the dearth of the winter, left behind. The sun cajoling grateful passers-by to put on colours they wouldn’t have done a month ago. The sale of sunglasses’ll go up. And nail varnish. I’ve forgotten already which flavour you chose, but mine is mango.

(from Mut@tus)


Reader reviews:

‘This goes beyond EROTICA, beyond the culturally CENSURABLE. It is sheer BEAUTY as was Henry Miller at his most LIBERATED.’

‘Of all the books I’ve read, this has DIVIDED ME AGAINST MYSELF more than any other.’

‘I JUMPED AT THE CHANCE to read more by this obviously talented and original authoress. I was not disappointed – ‘blown away’ would be a more appropriate description. This is an abridgment of a novel which pushes the boundaries of women’s literary fiction to its limits – a D.H. LAWRENCE TYPE OF MOMENT (…) I can’t say enough good things about this novel. This is a haunting work which will stay in my head for a long time.’

After Man’s made everything he can, Man makes…

chasing the dollar

Off, the pajamas:

I’m just full of ideas, me. I could be a billionaire if I were money-loving enough, instead of being an early pensioner with an invalidity permit and 500 euros a month from the State for my pains. Phoenix, Arizona. Not  a single decent antique shop. They were buying their antiques from New York, or wherever… Imagine, 350,000 inhabitants, as it was at the time, and not a single antique shop… I had stock back home worth over 2 million francs at a time when $1 was 5 francs.

But there was my wife. She didn’t want to go in the end.

Another day:

Ile de la Réunion – I fell in love with the place. Found a splendid piece of land with a view of paradise covered with these magnificent old trees whose flowers remind you of those plants we sell here mainly at Christmas time. The property fell in terraces and the idea was to build a house on each terrace and let them out as holiday homes. Or maybe to the military stationed there; they’d be reliable clients. He wanted 775,000FFR, which was a wad of money even in them days. Down payment? No way, but my word, which was good enough. I had the land all measured out and back home secured a credit of two million, then organized a whole troupe of people to get this project born.

The appointment was for Monday at 10am. 10am came and went, ten thirty… Where the hell is he? I asked the notary. Be patient, monsieur, he soothed. This is Monday and you are in Réunion, not in France. Here, things get done at a different pace. Listen, I said, already feeling uneasy. I have worked my balls off for the last months, and I have just flown 9,000km to be here. Where the hell is he? Later, much later, the proprietor turned up. Ah, monsieur, bonjour! So, we are ready for the sale? Well, monsieur… erm, monsieur, we will have to round up the price a little bit… Round up the price a little bit, he’d said… Monsieur, monsieur, my property is worth at least 1,000,000FFR, monsieur…

Another dollar:

I was the first to have a tent up during those winter flea markets where you’d stamp your feet and freeze your balls off waiting for clients to stroll by. They’d stop at my stall so as to be out of the rain. And whilst they were there, and the rain out there, they’d browse around a bit. And find things to buy. Of course. Within no time, all the other vendors had tents up, so that the whole place looked like a friggin Bedouin camp.

esch flea market b:w
Similar story, some dealers got together and hired a hall. The place was freezing, so I made some walls for my little corner, all things found at the scrap yard. I put in some windows, some old carpets on the floor, not the valuable ones, but something inviting and making it soft underfoot. And I put in a little stove. Who got the best sales? What did the other vendors do before you could even say atchoo?