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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

March 07, 2006

Nostalgia Bulletin

Twenty-five years ago, I'd just left home and was living down in Kent, a long way from my school friends, who were still finishing their 'A' levels. It was a contented period of my life. No job, like now, my days to fill with writing and playing music, as now, and - best of all - loads and loads of letters from friends.

Some of the best were the most surprising, from the kind of people you didn't think would ever do such a thing. One girl, a fairly good friend of mine, used to write to me during the classes in which we used to sit together, so it was as if she was carrying on a conversation she'd have had with me if I was still there. She was someone I liked a lot, but way out of my league, the kind of girl who was – at 17 – dating professional footballers and wouldn't look twice at anyone without a sports car. But she was no bimbo, and her letters used to make me smile.

I'll tell you how much I adored her. We were on a school field trip, staying in a youth hostel. One night, before we all went out to eat, I was in the games room playing on a beautiful old pinball machine while everyone else got ready (me, I was sticking to my ripped jeans, of course). She came into the room, unplugged the pinball machine in the middle of my game and plugged in her hairdryer. Now, instead of getting annoyed or uptight about this, I didn't bat en eyelid. I just sat on the floor, leaned against the wall, and had a long chat with her while she was drying her hair. I can't think of anyone else who could have done such a thing and not annoy me. We were on some kind of strange level. She knew if she asked me I wouldn't mind, so she didn't bother to ask. Simple as that.

I've long ago lost them all, the letters – I've moved house too many times (which is something I just said for the second time today) – but in clearing a space in the loft for our new boiler I came across something I'd written in which I transcribed one of her precious letters. It still makes me laugh:

I’ve changed pen now for variety! Thank you for your letter, it was really lovely. You sound v. contented despite the seriousness of the content (a pun on words, there). That was nice of your sister to buy you a typewriter from Debenhams & I’ve sent your mum a caterpillar in the post. Pat says “Hi!” and asked how you were. I had a chat with Mr J about you – he’s so sweet and he thinks that although it would have been sensible to stick out another 4 months, it was best what you did as it would have been 4mnths of unhappiness and you are 18 now after all.

A.S. came top in History with 66% “oh did I come top, really – and I didn’t do any revision, what a surprise, I didn’t know I had it in me, perhaps I ought to do history at University, I wonder what marks I got for each essay – what a good overall average………..” !! God she’s a pain. I’m glad the hostages are free…

…Sorry my writing is so untidy but I’m feeling really sapped of energy and I’m as white as a sheet with pleasant black circles round my eyes. I haven’t even had any late nights – I’m probably dying of anemia or smthg. My nan is in hospital so I made her a crème caramel and a jelly. I also made my dad some coconut buns but I put too much of smthg in and they are 3 1/2 inches high (I measured them) with a diameter of 2 3/4 inches. They look like little cottages but I made my dad eat one and he said it was gorgeous. My brothers had 1 each too.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do when I leave school. I can’t think of anything except a barmaid, the woman on Play Away, or the woman on Holiday

Paula Bignell, I do miss you. Wherever you are, I hope you're doing something as rewarding as being the woman on the Holiday programme. You were born for it.


  • These are the sorts of things that make us more like gods than monkeys.

    Good post.

    By Blogger SimonHolyHoses, at 6:32 am  

  • Yes indeed, excellent!

    It just feels such a long time ago. It feels almost as if it was part of my past, not yours. Sepia memories. That sort of melancholic happiness - the point in your life when you think it’s all going to start, like the calm before the storm, waiting for the ‘grown up’ to arrive from within yourself. Innocent and happy, as you sit on the grass a little giddy from the lager, as the sun goes down and your arms feel the chill of the coming evening.

    By Anonymous James, at 11:00 am  

  • you are talking about mum!!!

    By Anonymous hbignell, at 4:42 pm  

  • Really?

    I no longer post at this blog, though I still get a message when someone comments, but have another one (link below)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:08 am  

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