Back in 2013, when performing in Future Perfect’s Family Plot at the Camden Fringe, this is what one very discerning reviewer had to say about my stories and performance.
Here are the stories she enjoyed, I hope you like them too.
When other high-voices used to come up to her, and reach out for me saying, “Oooh nod long naaooow!” I would curl up tight as a snail and wish them away. I mean if I were the one with the bump instead of the bump inside her bump I wouldn’t want to touch other bumps. I’d leave them alone. Respect their privacy. Let them grow in peace.
To be fair though, she’s been quite good about that really. She’s kept to herself most of the time and while that must’ve been lonely for her, it suited me just fine until recently.
We were getting by alright, just the two of us. Me and her. We had our routines. My favourite was her morning sit-down-hot-drink. That black stuff zinged straight through me, made everything rush and tickle, made me laugh so bubbles popped up all around me and the best bit of all was that she would drink it while listening to the ‘wadio doo’, and I really loved that, cos it broke up the endless woosh-woosh-wooshing and de-dunk-de-dunk-de-dunking that goes on in here all the time, with welcome ‘boom-chukka-chukka-boom-booms and shakka-lakka la-las.’ In fact if it was something I’d heard before, I’d move and kick and shove and push my feet and fists against the sac until I was tired out and that felt really good, for me at least. Occasionally though, she’d go ‘oohn’ or ‘argh’ and put her hand on the bump-skin above me and then we’d touch which was nice, although sometimes it felt like she was trying to stop me and I didn’t like that at all, so I would kick back harder still and dream about getting out of here and getting my own, ‘wadio-doo’.
Anyway, after her hot-morning-sit-down-drink-and-‘wadio-doo’- time, most days, we’d go out for a bit. I can usually tell where we go by the way she walks and other things. In the nice outdoor she does a steady stroll, then sits, and I can taste clean and fresh and green as she breathes deeply. But in the other, indoor, where she goes nearly every day, she stops and starts, picks something up, walks on, puts things back, picks up more things, eventually takes them to the ‘beep-beep’, then puts them into something which weighs her down and slows our progress, as she has to stop and rub her back from time to time.
The only thing I do like in the indoor apart from the ‘beep-beep’ is their ‘Wadio-doo’ – when it goes, ‘bing-bong’. ‘Bing-bong, desco, evvy-liddle-bid-‘elps. Bing-bong’. Even so, I’m not sure indoor, ‘bing-bong’ places are good for her at all, because that’s where she had her funny turn a few days ago. She had picked up a few things and put most of them back as usual, and then all of a sudden she became very still and the pumping into me changed. A nasty, bitter, black-green shot through my pipe, waking me from my floaty-snooze. It got unusually dark in here, then a surging and squeezing I’ve never felt before made me panic. I could tell she wasn’t right at all, because she was leaning strangely, gradually at first over to one side, and then at a sharper angle and would’ve crashed to the ground, but fortunately something stopped her fall. She was held, then steadied and helped onto the floor, where she sat down.
“Are oo ok?” I heard a deep voice say. She nodded slowly. The Deep then smoothed her hair back – and it went warm and pink in here, so I could tell she liked that. A few more strokes and then the Deep found her something to drink, and I liked that a lot, cos whatever it was came into me all sweet and sticky and orange.
“Dank oo” I heard her say, over and over, “dank oo soo much.”
“No pubbum,” deep voice replied; “I ope oo did’n mine me duching oo? My waf is pregnan oo an see cand bear do be tush.”
“No! No I dun main ad all, I wudder fallen oderwise, id was very kine” she replied. And again, I knew what she was saying was true. I could feel it. Deep must’ve been holding her hand or something, because it had gone yellow in here. And I wanted to say that I didn’t mind Deep touching her either. In fact I liked it very much. It felt good to be touched this way. No grabby lunging or reaching, from the other high-voices, just a steady, firm hold from a nice Deep. It reminded me we hadn’t been near a Deep for ever such a long time, and then, well, – although I could barely remember it – that hadn’t been good at all, but this was different and I wanted this Deep to do it some more, cos every time it did, the water in my sac turned brighter and softer and was good to be in again.
“You can touch her bump!” I called out, but of course Deep couldn’t hear me cos I’m stuck in here. So I tried to make myself heard the only way I knew how. I kicked and kicked and kicked harder than ever before and then, whoa!! What the? Oh, no, did I just make a hole in the sac? All the pink surgy stuff around me that was nice again shot right out down below in a sudden gush and then,… … Noo! The sac-walls were squeezing so hard against me they were shoving me out. NO! Stop!!…Then, I knew something must be really bad because Deep, who was still there sounded scared and said,
“Oh maii Goh, I dink yaar wadur’s juss brocken! Donn mooove, I’ll go fain summun.”
“Okay,” she said, and then, “Don’ worree, a’im nod goin anywhaah” with a little laugh followed by,
“aaaaaah! “OMG! HURRRYYY UP! I thin iid’s coooomeee!” But it was a false alarm, cos as you can see, I’m still in here, although something’s definitely changed. We didn’t go home after that, or to the nice outside. We came here, where it smells like some of the stuff she uses at home, only stronger, and we’ve been lying down ever since and wherever it is that we are, they have an annoying ‘wadio doo’ that keeps going, beeeeep, beeeeep, beeeeeep. I wish they’d switch it off so I could get some sleep! And I wish she would get up and take me out and that Deep would come back, it was good when he was around.
The Strange Relic
“Basta!” “Enough.” Admonished my Italian grandfather, one melon-scented summer in Italy when we were about to sit down to Sunday lunch with the, ‘famiglia’; a sacred ritual always presided over by its high priest, my formidable, Nonno Armando.
As usual, I was starving, and desperately wanted to tuck into the lasagna, bubbling away in the big, see-through oven dish at the centre of the dining-room table, but even more than that, I was in the grips of my latest craze; the urge to dance, at all times, and as artistically as possible, and it was for this erratic lunging and twirling, that Nonno had just told me off in the hope I would stop long enough for him to say Grace. His ominous tones partly successful, I dutifully paused, but while he closed his eyes and clasped his hands together in prayer, he appeared to me less frightening than usual, and so I decided that while he wasn’t looking I would treat his respectfully hushed guests to an alternative, pre-lunch ritual.
As Nonno thanked the Almighty for the generous bounty we were about to receive, I plonked my controversially platform-shoed foot on one of my grandparents’ best seats, gripped its wooden back tightly with both hands, thrust my hips backwards and forwards as I’d seen Liza Minelli do, and then arched my back until I could sweep the marble floor with my long plait while belting out, “Life is a Cabaret old chum. COME TO THE CABARET!”
“Stefania! Fermati! Nonno spluttered, spying my antics through his half closed slits. “Where in God’s name did you learn those awful moves?” He banged his hands down on the table hard to underline his shock before adding, “not at ballet-school I hope? Who’s teaching her this stuff? It’s a disgrace. She’s only a child. ” His now wide-open, eyes were accusing the whole room but lingered longer on my mother and father, who were looking down and trying not to laugh.
“Ooooofffa!” I protested, strangely undaunted, and sitting down as noisily as I could, to conciliatory coos of “there, there, brava, brava” from one or two other invited relatives who were more forgiving of my frustrated choreography and who didn’t want their lunch spoiled by a scene.
Rightly suspecting my gluttony would get the better of me, my favourite Auntie Raffa rushed a plate of steaming lasagna before me with a, “tuck into that, there’s a good girl,” all the while ignoring Nonno’s tut of disapproval – strict custom dictating that he, as ‘capo-famiglia’ should be served first. “Bah!” He exclaimed in further disgust, “what is this family coming to! Soon we’ll be sitting down to lunch naked, like savages. If that is, anyone sits down to lunch together anymore.” There was a snigger and an uncomfortable cough from somewhere down the table but I had moved on.
The lasagna. Oh. My. God. The lasagna! Where to begin?
The layers of pasta so creamy and yellow and freshly rolled out only a few hours ago by my devoted Nonna Deborina. Her rich and deep ragu cooked slowly for hours and hours and then the cheese – so much stringy cheese – a gooey glory of mozzarella, fontina and parmigiano, what utter melty-dairy joy! And I was not alone in my rhapsody. Plates had been skillfully rushed before the other diners too and now all about Nonno’s ancient, round table, respect was being given to the culinary masterpiece that was my Nonna’s lasagna. We ate. We let slip a few groans. My memory may be playing tricks here but I swear someone even wiped away a tear of gratitude. Several half formed words of praise escaped our slurping mouths but mostly we ate. And ate. And ate.
Eventually, a now, pacified Nonno stood up for his customary aid to digestion; a constitutional stroll between courses, one or two gentle turns, as advised by the family doctor, of the long corridor stretching the central axis of his and Nonna’s apartment. As his ever-attentive daughters began clearing away the plates, off Nonno went, but not before giving me a, “brava, cosi’ si fa’” pat of approval as he passed by.
He should have left well alone, as I, like the others, had been transported to pasta-paradiso, but now at his touch I was back with a thump in his dining room and my internal casio-tape-recorder, previously on pause, had flicked back on. A swelling reprise of Cabaret blasted through me and I suddenly knew this was my big moment! Puffing up my chest like I’d seen other-hero-of-the-hour, Rudolf Nureyev do when he stepped up for his solo, I leaped up and chased after Nonno into the darkness beyond the dining room, executing my two highest, best Rudi-like chassees for good measure as I went.
The forks of those still eating froze midway from table to mouth as the crash of falling plates in the corridor and Nonno’s cry of, “Porca Vacca!” Split the air. Clutching half his buttocks with one hand and a wriggling me in the other he reappeared at the doorway puce-faced, screaming, “SHE’S ONLY GONE AND BIT ME IN THE BLOODY ARSE!!”
“Pappa!” Shrieked Auntie Raffa ricocheting in the wake of her father’s fury and bad language; strictly banned at all times, but an excommunicable offense on a Sunday.
I had though. I had, as Nonno brilliantly put it, gone and bit him as hard as I possibly could in the bloody arse, but far, far better still, I had well and truly made my mark, for there, rather spectacularly, for all to see, poking out of Nonno’s handmade trousers and looking like a tiny, toppling headstone in the graveyard of his aging posterior, was the loose milk-tooth I had been furiously waggling that very morning; the tooth fairy depositing double money if she flew by and found something beneath your pillow on a Sunday night.
Despite my shocking triumph, I knew I had gone too far this time, and dreading the deadly hush that had befallen the dining room it took a long while before I could tear my eyes away from the speckled floor-tiles. But when I eventually did, sneaking a few glances back at my audience, to my utter astonishment, I realised from their strained expressions and odd postures – cousin Fredo was squashing his face with both hands and shaking in his chair, and a few others were doing something similar – that I had pulled off a veritable showstopper and that it would be nigh on impossible for Nonno to come back from this. So the only burning questions now, were, how to get the tooth out of Nonno’s arse, and back into my safekeeping, and whether tonight the fairy would still deliver on her promise, knowing where this tooth had been?