Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Feeling Christmassy yet? Wish Upon A Star!






My brother Gus and me pulling a wishbone




On Christmas Eve 1981, I was with Anna Parris, her brother and her father, walking their two golden Labradors. It was late in the afternoon as we walked towards Rothwell. We crossed meadows, frozen streams and woodland. The sky was an apricot hue, laced with a fine mist. It was like a painting with the smoke-grey hills in the distance and the branches bare as bones, like charred skeletons. Our noses were red and runny, we carried sticks and called out to the dogs to heel and walk on. Merry Christmas! We called out in chorus, happy to see someone, anyone, approaching so we could yell it again Happy Christmas! Ho ho ho to you!

Mr. Parris was a lovely dad, he had a peppery beard with ginger bits in it and golden brown eyes like Anna’s. He was the headmaster of a big school in a nearby town. He seemed to always find time to help build things with his children and their friends. Once I went to play there and found them all making a real igloo out of snow. I’ll never forget that, it was big enough for all of us to get in. We sat in the round centre of it and I remember finding it warm inside.

I also recall one summer Mr.Parris made an obstacle course down the centre of their long garden and he and Anna taught me how to ride a bike proficiently. He built a rope ladder and a swing in their apple orchard, and we spent hours swinging on the rungs of the ladder and eating un-ripe apples. Anna was my most sensible and bookish friend. She taught me how to hold my breath and swim underwater, she tried to teach me to play Cats with her on her piano and she introduced me to the Brownies. My Brownie Guide uniform was a second-hand brown tunic that was too short for me, with a yellow tie and a brown leather toggle. I wore my Brownie bobble hat ridiculously balanced on my afro. It looked better if you had straight silken hair like Anna’s. She was a tomboy too, with bobbed straw-coloured hair, those sandy brown eyes and pale freckles across her nose. I pored over my Brownie manual, and together we competed over badges, both aiming to achieve two full sleeves; to us these sewn-on trophies not only symbolised that we had passed the tests of semaphore, cooking and first aid, but that we were smart and we could solve anything, that we could survive in the wild and live in camps and tree-houses. So that Christmas eve, we ran through the sludge with the dogs leaping excitedly and barking. Then we stopped and called the old brown horse to come to the fence to eat snowy, muddy grass from our red palms. Standing on the gate railings, we shouted here boy. Our fingers were cold and dirty; we cleaned them inside our mittens. The sky was sweet above us, swept with the colour of rhubarb and custard penny chews, fruit salads, pink and yellow.

Do you get butterflies on Christmas Eve? Anna asked
I do! her brother replied
I have got butterflies in my tummy already Dad, I have, Anna said softly, taking Mr Parris’s big, gloved hand
Me too, I said, shoving my hands deeper into my own pockets and tucking my chin into my scarf.

The four of us fell quietly into step as I began to think about my own dad and the letters we had written to him that week. That year particularly Mum had asked us to write to our father and say what we wanted for Christmas. I didn’t know what to write, we had never asked for anything or written to him much before. I’d found the letter difficult. More than anything I wanted to ask for something to give him a clue who I was and how I had grown up. Mum suggested I ask for a vanity case, I didn’t know what a vanity case was. Mum told me it was a case for young ladies, with a mirror and a manicure set, it was somewhere to keep precious things and jewellery. To me it sounded like it would make him picture me as a pretty young lady.

So that Christmas, I wrote to my father asking for a vanity case and I couldn’t wait to see what he’d send and what on earth a vanity case looked like, but because it would be from my real dad, I suddenly wanted one more than ever. 

The icy grass crunched under our boots, there was a lavender mist across the dusky fields in the distance. The dogs padded by our side and as we came back into town pretty Christmas lights in house windows winked and blinked on and off. Chimney smoke wisped into the evening. We caught a lovely little smile playing on Mr. Parris’s lips underneath his bushy beard as he listened to us talking about Father Christmas. We were discussing how Santa could get to us even though our bungalow didn’t have a chimney.

We felt the magic of Christmas Eve all around us, sparkling in the frost. We were content that tomorrow would be the best day of the year. And as we said goodnight to each other the North Star was twinkling above us. We kept yelling Happy Christmas until we were out of sight of each other and I was walking alone. A street away, I could still hear Anna Parris shouting into the peaceful Christmas Eve, the silent night, the holy night, all is calm, all is….Merry Christmas Salenaaaaaa!

(c) Salena Godden / Springfield Road

Springfield Road is published by Unbound Books. Audiobook, Ebook, hardback and paperback are available online either here: https://unbound.co.uk/books/springfield-road or please ask for it in your favourite bookshops. Last week I read poetry at a new salon The Society Club and they are now stocking 'Springfield Road' and 'Fishing In The Aftermath' in both Shoreditch and Soho shops.


Are you feeling Christmassy yet?
Bollocks. The news is Bollocks. Diabolical Bollocks, both overseas Bollocks and closer to home Bollocks and floods and Bollocks and violence and Bollocks and war and Trump and Bollocks and Osborne and Bollocks and Cameron and the tampon tax is Bollocks and the escalating refugee crisis and Bollocks, it is all a load of Bollocks. Bollocks I tell you, utter bollocks. This December my advent calendar is Bollocks. Every morning I stand there with my heart a flutter of excitement to open my advent calendar door and there it is, Bollocks happening again. On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me...Bollocks. Oh little town of Bollocks. Little donkey, little donkey on a dusty Bollocks.  

This is my last blog of the year, so I intend to share some good news, a few links, book news and hot dates before we all disappear into the madness of the seasonal festivities or we drown in a sea of bobbling Bollocks which ever happens first.  


 Oli Spleen and Salena Godden in Hastings, Nov 2015

This past few weeks have sped past and I have had some beautiful travels and times. Thank you to The Hastings Storytelling Festival, it was fantastic, I love going home to Hastings. The Out-Spoken Awards 2015 was a blinding show too with a medley of new superstar poets and Liverpool legend Brian Patten. The standards were so high, yet more evidence that poetry is in rude health and this makes my heart so glad. Earlier this month I made radio with Robin Ince and Josie Long and chatted about my favourite books for their Book Shambles podcast. Then I read erotica and sipped delicious cocktails at a new literary salon held at The Society Club, off Brick Lane in Shoreditch. As this year winds down I just want to thank all the kind people that have come and said hello and bought a book this year. I don't know how many gigs and events I have contributed to in 2015, but it has felt constant, you've all been so supportive and brilliant. Thank you to the people putting on these fabulous parties, events and festivals, thank you to all the organisers and movers and groovers. 2015 - What a year! Thank you! 


Book Shambles on Soundcloud:
https://soundcloud.com/cosmicgenome/book-shambles-episode-5-salena-godden



BRAVO! I've been following and supporting the excellent work of my friends at the Refugee Community Kitchen in Calais  You must check out the inspiring testimonials and photographs, documenting a story in real time of people sharing their time, energy, equipment and resources, and showing great compassion and humanity. People coming together to prepare hundreds of meals for those who need it in the camps in Calais and Dunkirk. We may not be able to stop the bombs and the Bollocks, but we can help the people who are fleeing the atrocities. I urge you to check out this page and join them on Facebook and donate here: https://www.youcaring.com/refugee-community-kitchen-474904 


Dean Atta, Salena Godden and Brian Patten, Outspoken Awards, 2015
Book Buzz...

Just last week one of the Book Club Boutique original comrades and friends Nikesh Shukla launched and funded his Unbound project 'The Good Immigrant'   it was 100% fully funded on Unbound Books within around seventy-two hours of being launched. I have added Harry Potter gifs to this blog, this is a salute to JK Rowling, who pledged and tweeted about this book too. Her support has been immense for this project. ' Thanks JK! The Good Immigrant' will be a collection of essays by BAME writers about immigration and race, with a stellar line-up including Musa Okwonga, Chimene SuleymanSabrina MahfouzInua Ellams and Nikesh Shukla and me and loads more, please go to: https://unbound.co.uk/books/the-good-immigrant to see the full line-up and pledge! Do it now! You can still be a patron and get your name  in the book, your name will be alongside JK Rowling and you'll be helping to get some new voices heard and diverse stories published.
In related news, have you been following #diversedecember  - a vital twitter campaign to promote the writing and books of the UK's BAME writers throughout December. You can read more about this here from Naomi Frisby: https://thewritesofwoman.wordpress.com


I'm very excited about the books and projects coming out with Influx Press in 2016. I'm not sure if I am allowed to announce anything here, early days, and so I will just share their website and tell you this is another ONE TO WATCH: http://www.influxpress.com
I don't do end of year book lists. I feel weird about lists. Lists remind me of that Baz Luhrhmann song 'Wear Sunscreen' when he says "don't read women's magazines they will only make you feel ugly" ... well that's how I feel about most lists and prizes. Here is yet another reason why Nikesh's book and hashtags like #diversedecember and #readwomen are a beam of light, promoting diverse authors and outsider books.  

But, if I had to say what my favourite books of 2015 were, they were both by Deborah Delano. I read her brilliantly crafted childhood memoir 'The Things You Do' this summer and her dark and twisted crime novel 'The Saddest Sound' this winter, and both are superb page turners, two excellent and satisfying books. Both stories packed with imagery, voices and turns of phrase that haunted me for days. She is championed by Alan Moore and published by indie press, Lepus Books

I hope I have taken your mind off all the Bollocks. Politics Bollocks. War Bollocks. Tampon Tax Bollocks. I suggest we keep topping ourselves up with the three good things in life, BOOKS, BOOZE and BOOGIE-WOOGIE. It is our duty to fill each and every day with books, with booze and beats. Make sure you read broadly, read greedily, listen to all the brilliant music, dance like you don't care if they are looking and drink lots of delicious cocktails and fine wines ... you'll find me devoted to doing all these things here:



Unbound gang, my editor Rachel Kerr, John Mitchinson, John Baines and Salena Godden, November 2015



I have run out of 10p pieces now and I have to go...
Thank you for taking the time to take this call, it was quite chilly in this phone box!
Thanks for subscribing to WAITING FOR GODDEN (over 200,000 readers now!)
I'm raising a glass and wishing you all the best, see you in 2016!
Have a very very merry merry christmas holidays, sgxx




Press:

NEW Interview in 'Now Then Magazine': http://opusindependents.com

NEW Essay 'Poetry: Not For The Fame Hungry'  http://thewoventalepress.net 

"Salena can write you into a child’s heart and out of the mouth of a teenager’s inquisitive nature. She can wring the tears from jaded cynics and make you understand the unique and endless joy of roller-skates and bicycles as a pathway to freedom." 
3AM Magazine: Sophie Parkin Read more here
"Throughout, Godden writes about a past that is at once deeply personal yet also belongs to the everyman figure; her descriptions of childhood are simultaneously timeless and yet rooted in a particular period of British history…" 
The Literateur: Debjani Biswas-Hawkes  Read more here


Salena Godden, Photo by Dan Sumption, Word Life, Sheffield Nov 2015




Salena Godden, Photo by Dan Sumption, Word Life, Sheffield Nov 2015



My last gig of 2015, Scroogeonomics, Rich Mix, new poem I Count now on youtube
Photo by Simon Green






● Save the Children: distributing essentials such as nappies, hygiene kits and food
● Red Cross Europe: providing emergency health services at central train stations
● Migrant Offshore Aid Station: dedicated to preventing migrant deaths at sea
● International Rescue Committee:  improving living conditions by setting up camps
● The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR): providing water, mosquito nets, healthcare
● Refugee Action: advice about asylum, the asylum process, asylum support
● The Worldwide Tribe in Calais: Travel blog documenting the story of the people in the Calais 'jungle' is connected to justgiving: crowdfunding site
Syrian artist, Tammam Azzam, The Kiss



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