Evidently on FAB Radio

Evidently

(Update: The show, which was a joy to do, can be found on Evidently’s Mixcloud page.)

On August 13th at 8pm the brilliant Kate Feld and I will be on FAB Radio’s spoken word show Evidently, promoting the next The Real Story LIVE event. We’ll be discussing the event with presenters Ella Gainsborough and Kieren King as well as reading a couple of stories and introducing some songs that we’ve found inspiring.

When they’re not presenting their radio show, Ella and Kieren also run the Evidently  poetry night every 2nd Monday in The Eagle Inn, Salford. You can find details about it here. If you like live poetry, pubs and/or Salford then it’s really the night for you. If you’re one of those people who’s scared of going out in Salford at night, don’t be. Salford is probably more afraid of you than you are of Salford.

In case you’re curious about what Kate and I sound like before the show, you can hear Kate reading her excellent short story ‘Max and Bird’ on the latest edition of the Tapes and Tales podcast (I bloody love Tapes and Tales). And, if you like, you can also listen to me on this YouTube video, reading out commuters’ negative tweets about Metrolink.

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Herons

d51ba50d3c9048f2f2053ac79bba457aThe cleaners were chatting in the staff kitchen this morning.

“Alan something,” One of them said, trying to recall the name of a deceased local barber. “Brilliant. Only charged £3. Didn’t believe in hairspray.”

“What did he use?” her colleague asked.

“Air freshener.”

They always spoke like this. In dryly amusing fragments. Snippets and sighs. As if their exchanges were determined efforts in efficiency. But when I walked in on their conversation the other morning it seemed especially concise.

The three of them were sitting around a table, each speaking in turn. The first with a note of victory, as if she’d just successfully answered a quiz question. The second like she’d just failed to answer the same question. And the third as though she was confirming the answer.

“Ah! Herons.”

“Oh! Herons.”

“Yes. Herons.”

I waited for more. Some context. But they all sat back in contented silence. Staring into space. No more needing to be said.

The quiet was heavy and compressing. I fought a sudden, rising desire to speak. A desperate, tick-like compulsion. I stirred my mug of tea and bit my lip. The clock hit 8am.

“Right,” One of them said, slapping her knees then getting to her feet with a soft grunt. The others followed suit and the three of them left the room.

I waited for the door to fully close behind them before releasing the word like a long held breath.

“Herons.”

A Family of Armadillos

4320516714_0df8b18584_bIt was Christmas and the meeting room had been transformed. The table where we sat for appraisals and stern one to ones about our internet usage was covered with a red crepe tablecloth and dotted with plates and foil trays. Of warm quiches and air-dried sandwiches. Processed meat in all its forms. Coleslaw, crisps and brightly-coloured curry dishes. It smelt like a freshly opened can of dog food. Still we piled our plates high and settled around the table, chatting.

“So, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?” someone asked.

I stacked potato salad and chicken biryani onto a segment of Scotch egg. Ready for a question like this.

I’d long defined myself by my capacity to eat. Anything and the most of it. Always the one with the fullest and subsequently cleanest plate. The 10 second rule meant nothing to me. Unless something had fallen onto a patch of vomit, I would pick it up and eat it. But as I opened my mouth to reel off a list, Derek got there first.

“A family of armadillos.”

Derek had spent most of his career in the army. Much of it in Jungle Ops. Eating whatever he could catch.

“You just gather them up in sacks,” he said, making it sound as simple and everyday as picking flowers. “Then separate them and pin the sacks to the ground with stakes. They just sit there quietly until you’re ready to cook them.”

I considered this poor armadillo family. Heading off on a summer outing and suddenly finding themselves swept into a dark web of burlap.

“Dad? What’s happening?”

“It’s okay, son. Just keep still and they’ll forget we’re here. Trust me.”

“Then you just roast them in their armour.” Derek said. “Like a big shrimp.”

I considered judging him for this but remembered how many Sundays I’d happily eaten a baby sheep then asked for seconds.

“We’d eat monkeys,” he said, enjoying the attention that should have been mine. “Black Mamba. Anything.”

“What’s monkey like?” I asked, unable to deny my curiosity.

“Stringy,” he said. “All sinew.”

You could see the memory of it on his face as he spoke. Of biting into a roasted arm, the meat coming away from the bone in threads as if he were eating a violin bow.

I couldn’t compete. I considered mentioning that I’d eaten alligator but I’d ordered that in a restaurant from a set menu. I hadn’t torn its throat out then carved a steak from its flank. I guessed there was that coconut mushroom I’d struggled to chew and, upon removing it from my mouth, discovered a large, blooded toenail embedded in it. But I’d spat that out.

“One time,” I said, rushed and desperate. “A moth flew into my mouth and I swallowed it. Then I coughed, it flew back out again and the cat ate it.”

Derek listened thoughtfully, picking his teeth with a plastic fork. As he’d surely done with an armadillo claw.

“Jungle rat was my favourite,” he said.

I jammed a bhaji and a pickled onion into a tuna sandwich then bit down. Determined not to be outdone.