This post might make more sense if you read the one below, before you read this
My teaching and learning continued, and my pile of rejection letters grew, and then one day another phone call brought some exciting news – It was from the competition organiser of the Birmingham Readers and Writers Festival – I’d entered for the short story category, and the man from BRMB radio station was telling me that my story, A Head for Heights had won fourth prize – my first ever recognition as a writer! The smile on my face lasted hours.
The subject of my story was one that would provide yet another strange link across the years. My best friend at school was a skinny girl with thin straggly hair and an occasional Australian accent. She’d turned up at our convent boarding school halfway through the year, and, unlike the rest of our class, wore actual nylon stockings instead of knee-length socks. (I discovered later, after we’d become friends, that her mother had been misinformed by the woman in Harrods school uniforms department about the regulations for the required clothing in the different years ). This put her at an added disadvantage, as it made her look like a sissy, choosing to subject herself to the discomfort of suspender belts a whole year before it was absolutely necessary, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, she had an unusual Christian name and a double-barrelled surname – I mean, I ask you, Clarissa Dickson Wright!
She was adopted by a kindly group of girls, who took her under their wings and showed her the ropes, but after a few weeks, one of them approached me and asked if Clarissa could join our small gang instead, as she was too naughty for them, and that was it – we’ve supported each other through the ups and downs of our lives ever since.
So, back to my prize winning story, which features a character based on my friend – It’s no secret to anyone who’s ever shown the slightest interest in Clarissa since she became famous that she’s a recovering alcoholic and that before she went into a treatment centre she’d had several years of slow decline. She continued to visit us throughout those years, and was dearly loved by my two children, her godchildren, who had no idea of what was happening to her. They both took for granted her store of green Gordon’s bottles that she brought with her whenever she visited, and they’d compete with each other to be the first to pour her tonic and fetch the ice cubes from the freezer.
There was one occasion at the pre-school playgroup when I sensed some strange looks from one or two of the helpers. I was later enlightened when I was told about my three year old’s offering of a doll’s size plastic cup and saucer to a visiting playgroup leader, with the words, ‘Would you like a gin and tonic?’