The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness: Graham Caveney in conversation with Deirdre O’Byrne

On the snowy evening of Wednesday 28 Feb, at Middle Street Resource Centre, Beeston residents were treated to a talk and exploration of Graham Caveney’s book The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness.

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His book, described as ‘a memoir of adolescence’ is a powerful recounting of Caveney’s life growing up in Accrington, from a working class Catholic background. It explores his love of music, literature, and brings to the fore issues such as class, religion, and the abuse he was subject to by his teacher and headmaster at his local grammar school during the 1970s.

Having kept his abuse quiet from his closest friends, and parents, his book comes at a time of recovery from years of mental anquish, drinking problems and trips in and out of rehab. At the start of the event, after everyone has settled with hot drinks, Graham Machin, chair of Beeston Community Resource (BCR), and one of our Beeston Heroes, speaks about the history of MSRC and its role as a mental health day centre.

Attendees of the event were encouraged to donate money towards a fund which helps people with mental health problems when they are in need of emergency support. This was done on a pay-what-you-can basis, and that Caveney agreed was a fitting cause for the event to raise money for.

Deirdre O’Byrne starts off the conversation by asking Graham about how his book came to be written in the first place, revealing a link to the hosts of the event, Five Leaves Bookshop, who had given Graham a job when he proclaimed himself as unemployable. It was then being surrounded by books that struck the right chord and enabled him to begin telling his story. What began as an attempt to rewrite Kafka’s Metamorphosis, became the courageous and endearing book that now exists as an object in the world (something Graham appreciates in books generally).

He’d sent paragraphs to his friend Julie Hesmondhalgh as a way to tell her about himself and his past, and she asked him if he’d thought about having it published. “When writing it, it never occurred to me that it would be published, and that was a good thing, otherwise I’d never have written it,” he says.

He had contacts that would be able to help towards publication, but, “I wasn’t prepared to cash in on those friendships,” he reveals. He then received an email from Julie with the subject heading ‘oops’ saying that she’d sent it to Jonathan Coe, an old friend and author in his own right, who got in contact with Graham’s former agent, who sold the book within 3 months.

The conversation is split up with a few readings, each of them read wonderfully, and eliciting laughs from the listeners. Deirdre picks up on this, and asks about the humour and presence of quite dark jokes in the book. Graham says humour can be a great way to express trauma and abuse, and that he didn’t want to write a sad, gloomy book which expressed how bad abuse is. He wanted the focus to be on the stuff he liked as a fourteen-year-old and his adolescence, which the abuse happened to occur and coincide with.

I wouldn’t have been able to write it without the education given to me by my abuser, and that’s something that I’m deeply grateful for.

The event as a whole gets into the heart of the story behind the book, and Graham provides listeners with many insights, such as the book’s publication leading to the un-naming of a performing arts centre which had previously been named after Graham’s abuser, something which Graham says is a ‘minor victory’. He also tells of a few instances of negative reactions, such as one person telling him that Graham, by writing the book, had just ‘pissed all over my childhood’ and another pointing out that he’d misspelt a teacher’s name, thereby throwing everything else into question. In reaction to this, he says: “People are eager to find ways to discredit it.”

He discusses class, memory and the issue of trigger warnings, which he says suggests that there’s a process to solving a problem. He reels off a list of seemingly insignificant things that can trigger him: a certain perfume, the texture of someone’s collar etc.

When receiving questions from the floor, Graham is asked what it’s like having the book out there being read and reviewed. ‘Strange’ is his main feeling towards it, but he says that the strangest part isn’t the book being reviewed by publications such as The Guardian , The Times and TLS, it’s actually when he’s in a coffee shop such as The Bean in Beeston, and someone comes up to him and says ‘I read your book’.

He says those are the moments he realises that the “book doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to the world.” He doesn’t regret telling his story, that he feels both “insulated and exposed” by it, but that ultimately its existence “validates something that I’ve carried around with me.”

The book itself holds a number of fascinating realisations in terms of Graham’s being able to write it in the first place. He says, “I wouldn’t have been able to write it without the education given to me by my abuser, and that’s something that I’m deeply grateful for.”

It’s also apparent that he couldn’t write it until his parents had passed away. His mother clung to her faith, and Graham believes that it was this that kept her going after his father had died. Revealing his abuse from his priest and teacher “would have been like telling her that God doesn’t exist.” So it was only after her death that he was able to write about it.

At the end of the event, the attention turns to his next book, which he’s 25,000 words into already, and which will be on the history of agraphobia. He says that he never made a conscious decision to write another book, he just carried on from this one.

A wonderful, insightful evening with plenty of books bought and signed by Graham, it was enough to make everyone want to get home and start reading (or re-reading) the book, with the added knowledge of all that he shared with us.

Read our interview with Graham Caveney.

JM

Reading by the Canal

It’s been 6 months since the Canalside Heritage Centre opened in Beeston Rylands, and it’s strange to think of the area without it. The once disused building has been given a new lease of life, and is giving back to the Rylands and Beeston community.

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The centre is also home to a specially written children’s storybook, Dog and Duck’s Canal Adventure, which doubles as an artistic contribution to their wonderful upstairs display area. The book was written by Heather Green, and illustrated by her husband, Johnny. It was originally her project as part of her MA in Museum and Heritage Studies, but her lecturer and trustee of the centre, Duncan Grewcock, saw the potential for it as a display that would appeal to children.

The book follows the two characters, Dog and Duck, as they travel down the canal towards Nottingham. The catalyst for their journey is the construction of the heritage centre, momentarily disrupting their home.

I met up with Heather and Duncan at the Heritage Centre to find out more about the book, and why such projects are crucial to the community.

“The Heritage Centre were looking for an interpretive offer for children and young people and it made sense to do a picture book,” says Heather. “I’m doing a PhD at the moment which is looking at the use of creative writing as a tool for museums, and the idea was to explore this slightly different way of getting information and facts across about a heritage topic to an audience.”

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Before opening, the Heritage Centre compiled some interpretive goals which Heather used to devise the narrative of the book: making a home, making a visit, and making a living based around the canal.

“My husband and I walked up and down [the canal] to try and get an idea of the route,” says Heather. “It was a good way of incorporating familiar scenes for people when they come to look and see the book, but also this idea of who might pass you by as you’re going along the canal.”

It’s really important to make the most of the green spaces that you have

In the book, while Dog and Duck are on their journey, they find an egg and take it with them. The story is about wondering what kind of creature might be inside the egg, taking inspiration from the things they see around them.

Heather adds: “One of the things we wanted to explore was what makes a home, particularly from a child’s perspective. Whether or not it’s the things you have or the place where you live. What is it that makes a home?”

As someone who has lived in the Rylands all my life, and paid frequent visits to the canal year on year, I couldn’t help but think about how the area has shaped my perspective of home, and how lucky I feel to live less than 10 minutes away from the canal. Duncan, however, moved here 3 years ago from London.

“One of the things I found out quite quickly was that there isn’t, in this area, a lot of heritage facilities,” he says. “The canal was so much loved and used for walking, cycling, running…but this place had become a bit of an eye-sore because it had been left derelict for 20 years. And one of the things that you got a picture of quite quickly was that how much genuine support there was to just do something with this building.”

This support and determination was entirely community-focused. “In another world, somebody might have turned it into a pub or something but I think turning it into a community facility, where there aren’t many, certainly not based on heritage, is important for everyone to have access to.”

Heather adds: “It’s really important to make the most of the green spaces that you have. And it’s a peaceful location here.” At this point, we fall silent and let ourselves take a moment of appreciation for our surroundings by glancing out of the window at nature. It’s a moment of quiet pride.

One of the great things about Dog and Duck’s Canal Adventure is that it’s unique to the centre. It features in the book through illustration and photographs, even with small touches such as the centre’s wallpaper design, making it truly personal. The book was also a contribution to UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature, something Duncan and Heather are very proud of.

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“We’re keen to see what more we can do in that context to spread the benefits of the City of Literature as an idea,” says Duncan. “It’s been popular in the shop, and it’s a fantastic addition to the displays as well.”

Manager of the Heritage Centre, Jenny, reveals that they did quite a large print run of the book, but that they’d be happy to print more if they all sold out. She says: “It’s a good seller for us; our bestsellers in the shop are the things that are specific to here.”

Heather adds: “That’s really what the City of Literature is about, inspiring new fiction, and new writing, using heritage and culture.”

Make sure you visit the Heritage Centre, peruse the local-inspired gifts, have a cuppa with a friend, and keep an eye out for fellow Beestonians, Dog and Duck.

JM

Foodprint

Taking a step in the right direction…

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We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘reduce your carbon footprint’ when it comes to doing your best for the environment and climate change by recycling, watching your energy usage, and re-thinking how you travel. But there’s now a project taking that idea and applying it to food and food waste, appropriately named Foodprint. I met up with the project’s team leader Sam Deuchar for a chat.

Sam, 20, is a third year psychology student at the University of Nottingham and originally joined the Foodprint team as Marketing Director after one of his best friends in first year was HR Director and advised him to get involved. Originally named ‘Zest’ the project is part of Enactus Nottingham, who help set up a variety of social enterprises such as this one.

“We’re trying to tackle food waste and food poverty in Nottingham,” says Sam. “The UK throws 10 million tonnes of food waste every single year. That’s the equivalent of enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall every single day. At the same time there are so many families that can’t afford to feed themselves. The food is there so those two problems shouldn’t co-exist. This is just one step along the way to try and tackle that.”

The model consists of Foodprint working with businesses such as supermarkets, cafés and other places which end up with a surplus amount of food. The business will donate what food they can, and Foodprint will sell it on at a vastly reduced price at their very own supermarket which is due to open in Sneinton. Their supermarket will be ideal for people who may be uncomfortable with going to food banks, and instead can enjoy a shopping experience without having to count the pennies.

“Ideally we’re looking for food that’s still packaged, past it’s best before date.”

Since the project was originally set up around a year and a half ago, the team have built strong connection with the council, and have managed to gain a substantial amount of funding from various organisations. “We’re very lucky with the amount of funding we’ve had to start us off,” Sam tells me. “We’ve had £8000 from the Uni of Nottingham, £3000 from the Ingenuity 2017 competition, and then we got £5000 from Ford. We also did a crowdfunding campaign with Jumpstart which got £1,300.” That comes to an impressive total of £17,300 which they will use towards the rent for the supermarket, employing a van driver to transport the donated food, and for the general upkeep, employee wages and food supply.

They’ve already had a great response from businesses, including the café at Middle Street Resource Centre in Beeston who donated some leftover bread (and recently offered Sam 130 boxes of eggs which, obviously, he had to turn down at this point), and allotment owners near Beeston Marina are letting them harvest their allotment and take away the produce, because there’s more than he needs. “Everyone’s been so supportive and helping us out so much. It’s exciting, it makes me happy that people are even thinking of us,” says Sam.

The main objective is for Foodprint to secure a strong network with local businesses who can offer them a supply of food which can be sold on. “Ideally we’re looking for food that’s still packaged, past it’s best before date. So many cafés might have cookies that are in packets and for the sake of quality purposes get thrown away,” explains Sam. “Whereas we’ll take them, we’re selling lower quality food but for a cheaper price.”

For example, if you were to go to the Foodprint supermarket, you can expect to find prices such as 40p for a can of beans, and 50p for a bag of pitta bread. They’re also working on future plans to implement a member’s scheme.

“We’ve got partners in Advice Nottingham, a number of social eating events, and social housing organisations,” reveals Sam. “The council work with Age UK where people might be disadvantaged. They’ll have access to a member’s scheme where they can get discounts on their shop, so if they couldn’t afford it they’ll get 50% / 75% off. Our objective is to ensure the food is going to the people that need it most.”

He adds: “We’re trying to bridge the gap between foodbanks and standard supermarkets. You can get caught in a cycle of dependency on food banks, so by giving a cheaper alternative to supermarkets you can work your way back on. You’re getting your choice back, you’re getting fresh food, and there’s no limit on how often you can go.”

Their slogan sums up perfectly what they’re trying to do: Eating for today, thinking of tomorrow. Not only will they save surplus food from being thrown away, they’re offering a more positive alternative to foodbanks for people who can’t afford to put food on the table. The contracts for the physical store have been signed, and by the time this article comes out, the social supermarket should be up and running.

You can increase Beeston’s support of Foodprint by working with the team. They’re always looking for volunteers, and you can contact Sam directly on 07769312531 or visiting the website at www.foodprint.io. The physical store will be located at: 101 Sneinton Road, Nottingham, NG2 4QL.

The best way for this project to reach its maximum potential is through social networking. If you know a business who could donate food, tell them about Foodprint.

JM

Sojo Publishing Mouse

There’s a new publisher in town. They’re called Sojo Publishing Mouse, and they are a children’s publisher who are throwing the publishing rule book out of the window, and are seeking the best stories around. Here’s theirs…

Helen Goodbarton and Sophie Johnson-Hill are the creative minds behind the publishing company, and I met them both at The Milk Lounge in Beeston, surrounded by children…which was the ideal setting really!

Helen, 39, runs a performing arts school for young children in Beeston called Sprouts, and has been for the past 10 years. It was through this that her and Sophie, 36, both met, as Sophie’s children used to attend the sessions.

Sophie is the creator of Sojo Animation, which she started whilst doing an MA in Puppetry and Digital Animation at Nottingham Trent University. Her research on the course was focussed on encouraging creativity in children.

“I’d just chat to a little one and find out how they think and how they feel about certain things,” says Sophie. “If they said something particularly brilliant I would take that sentence and get them to draw a self-portrait and I would animate their words coming out of their artwork.” She called these individual animations ‘Thunk of the Day’, and they can be found on the Sojo Animation YouTube channel.

So while Sophie was doing this, Helen was working with children through Sprouts. “There’s a theme each term and a story the kids follow. There are poems and songs that we learn that I wrote,” explains Helen. “I’ve written four years’ worth of adventures.”

It was when Sophie was in the process of making some puppets that she had an idea to involve Helen in her preparations for a Christmas workshop with children. “I wanted to make giant puppets out of willow and paper, I wanted to make glowing snowmen,” Sophie tells me. “I asked Helen to join forces with me so the kids can understand the story of this snowman. I asked her to make up a story about a snowman who swallowed a firefly by mistake and then doesn’t know what to do about it. I handled the making of the puppets while Helen took them on this huge adventure,” says Sophie. “Afterwards Helen read me the story and it was a beautifully written book with rhyming couplets.”

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“I’d written a few things before and I’d even sent one story off to a publisher,” explains Helen. “Then I wrote this. You know they say everyone has a story in them that needs to be told? This is mine.”

At this point, they both decided to see if they could find a publisher, going with the idea that the story would be Helen’s, and Sophie would be the illustrator. But after exploring the world of children’s publishing, they discovered a few rules that would stop them in their tracks.

“Aside from lots of other rules that publishers have, a lot of them won’t take a book that’s already illustrated by somebody else, because they have in-house illustrators,” Helen tells me. “I feel it would be wrong if it wasn’t with Sophie’s pictures.”

Sophie adds: “There are rules about which of the pages needs to be a double page spread regardless of what’s happening at that point in the story, or how many times a theme should re-occur within the story. It’s like a guide to how a kids book ‘should’ be.

“We needed this creative publishing company that cut out all of these ridiculous rules”

In an industry that is all about something that is so beautifully creative, to cut creativity with rules is just frankly insane,” she says.

This made them realise that there must be other people out there in the same position as them. Sophie says, “We’re not the only fantastically, originally talented authors and illustrators in Nottingham, there’s loads of us, and there must be loads of people who aren’t telling their stories because of the restrictions.”

Helen adds: “That was where we stopped and went, shall we do this ourselves? How do we do it ourselves?”

And that’s exactly what they did. They set up Sojo Publishing Mouse with the intention of throwing the rule book out of the window.

“We needed this creative publishing company that cut out all of these ridiculous rules,” says Sophie. “We’re gonna set out our book just as we want to, just as it’s calling to be set out. The whole ethos was calling for people to get behind it and be a part of our journey.”

The Glowing Snowman tester

They actually had the idea a couple of years ago, but with Sophie doing her MA and Helen having a baby, they’ve only just got round to launching it properly. They set up a Kickstarter campaign as a way to get more people involved in their vision for children’s publishing. Sophie described pressing publish on the campaign as a “moment of impending doom.”  When I met them, the campaign for their first book The Glowing Snowman had only recently gone live, but they already had around £800 raised.

They had no reason to panic, as their final total came to £3, 986 which was almost £1000 above their original target. After this incredible result, Helen has this to say:

“We were so pleased and overwhelmed with the success of our Kickstarter campaign; to see so many people take interest and belief in our project, and not just to reach our target but to surpass it so well. It means we’ll have more funds not only to invest in selling this book, but in creating our next one too! We’re very excited to get cracking with this little publishing mouse!”

Make sure to like them on Facebook at: @sojopublishingmouse

JM

Jai Verma: an interview

Beeston’s own Indian poet…

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Jai Verma is a Hindi writer who has been living in Beeston for 35 years with her husband. They both retired a couple of years ago after working in the NHS. Now, Jai likes to spend time with her family, but continues to be a key part of her community through her role as a writer and promoter of the Hindi language and culture. I met with her at her home to talk about her life and writing.

Her origins are in India, where she was born in Meerut. In 1971 she moved to the UK with her family where she taught Hindi for 15 years, and was involved in translating books from English to Hindi. Her other hobbies included badminton (which the also taught), tennis, and later on, golf. For a short time, she served on the committee at Beeston Fields Golf Club.

About her teaching, she tells me, “We didn’t have any material for children in the 80s. About 31 books were done. Then I was employed by the language centre in Nottingham for 6 months. I made a thousand copies each of all these books, then they were in circulation and children were reading those books.”

Once her children were leaving home, they encouraged her to pursue her own education. She joined Broxtowe College to study Business and Finance, then went to Nottingham Trent University and did an advanced diploma in Practice Management.

“After that there was a taste for knowledge,” she says.  “A hunger for knowledge, I wanted to learn more.” And she did, going on to do gain a post-graduate certificate in Service Management. This lead to her 25 years working as a practice manager with the NHS.

“I didn’t think of myself as a writer, never thought I was a writer,” she reveals. “I used to do paintings, and one day suddenly I wrote two poems. I remember it was very cold weather and we couldn’t go out of the house so I sat upstairs near the fire and then I wrote two poems.” She shared her poems with a friend, who she was a part of the Indian Women Associates with, and at one of their meetings Jai’s friend announced that Jai had some poems with her which she would then read aloud.

“I didn’t know what sort of quality my writing was. And I read them! Everyone clapped and were very happy. And someone said ‘why don’t you read it on the radio?’” That someone happened to know the radio presenter, and Jai ended up reading her poem ‘A Moment’ on air.

“Someone in Birmingham was listening and he knew us, and he rang.” He then asked if Jai attended any writing groups in Nottingham. But at the time there wasn’t any such group, so he invited Jai to Birmingham where there was a monthly poetry group she could join.

“Once I went there,” she says. “I had the opportunity to listen to other poets and writers, and talk to them. And they used to clap on my poems as well when I used to read. I didn’t know if it was good or bad, I had no idea, but that’s how I started writing and developing.”

The group encouraged her to keep writing, and to keep collecting her poems. Jai noticed that the people in the group were published and had their own books, and this inspired her to eventually put some of her poems into a collection. Her book was published in India in 2008, and called Sahyatri Hain Hum.

“It means we are the core traveller on this earth, no matter where we are, no matter where we live, we are the core traveller,” says Jai. Her book received two awards, one in India, and one here from the High Commission in London.

“Nottingham is at the heart of England, it’s the Queen of midlands.”

In 2003 Jai decided to set up her own group in Nottingham called Kavya Rang. The group was made up of Jai and two of her friends. “Today we have 27 writers. They’re writing in different languages of Asia. Four main languages: Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, and English.”

Whilst continuing to write poetry, Jai began writing stories and eventually had enough for another collection which became Saat Kadam (Seven Stories) which was published in April of this year. It was first launched at The High Commission in London, and then at The White Lion in Beeston by the Mayor of Broxtowe.

“And the mayor, very jokingly said: ‘But I will not be able to read it, because it’s in Hindi.’ And then of course I thought it’s about time these stories should be translated into English.” These stories are currently in the process of being translated and Jai hopes eventually they will be published and reach a wider audience.

Speaking about writing inevitably leads to her mentioning how inspiring she finds Nottingham, especially with its title as a City of Literature, and all the opportunities this provides for writers.

“Nottingham is a wonderful place to live. I wouldn’t like to change it. I can’t think of any better place. When I came to Nottingham and used to go and see the houses I thought Beeston was very ideal Nottingham is at the heart of England, it’s the Queen of midlands,” she says.

She adds: “Beeston has got everything; it’s a very cosy type of shopping centre. Whenever I’m driving towards the A52 I feel good going home.” At this point she hints that she’d like to join Beeston’s Civic Society, believing that it’s good to be a part of the community.

We finish with Jai offering advice to young writers, which is: “Keep writing. Never judge yourself what sort of writing you are doing. Let other people enjoy it and make the judgement. You should not worry about what sort of writing you are doing, whether it’s poetry, stories, essays or articles. Just write it, and then see afterwards.”

You can find out more about Jai and her work via her website: jaiverma.co.uk

JM

Interview with Graham Caveney

Graham Caveney is an author who, up until now, has written books about other people. He wrote the biographies of two great writers, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. But having put time, effort and research into the lives of others, he finally got round to writing his memoir…

The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness is a memoir like no other, and is a true testament to not only Graham’s adolescence, but his ability to turn his life around and produce something to be proud of.

The book explores Graham’s early life growing up in a catholic household in Accrington during the early eighties. The book is packed full of endearment for the working class society he lived in, his trips to Blackpool, and his parents. The events of his early years are described with a steady balance of nostalgia and wit. Yet, casting a shadow over his memories of growing up is the abuse he suffered from his head teacher and priest, who, with an affinity for culture, theatre and literature, at first seems like a friendly, literal father figure in the book. Graham has done well to present ‘Rev Kev’, as he is called, in a way that lets readers make their own mind up about him, rather than lacing his words with resentment or retrospective suffering. Graham takes us back to that time, and puts us exactly where a young, teenage boy stood.

The memoir almost doubles as an exploration in the memory process. There are a few layers to it, although it remains uncomplicated and surprisingly easy (and addictive) to read. Graham’s memory works more like a film, but he acknowledges that his past relationship with drug and alcohol abuse affects this, as he writes: “You cannot live the life of a drug addict and/or alcoholic and still expect to trust your memory.” This is where the chapter titles come in. Each chapter starts simply with ‘Next’, ‘Next’, ‘Next’…which, he tells me, wasn’t the original intention for the book.

“It was a way for me to remember where the chapters were, and when I finished it I thought ‘I’m gonna keep that’”. He adds: “I was trying to get the weird way memory works. There’s no linear cause and effect ‘abc’ structure, they have a life of their own, they’re all over the place and that temporal shift is what I wanted to get at.”

It’s clear that Graham is a book-lover, both from meeting him in person and reading his book. On the day of the interview, Graham had been reading Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso. This is a fitting choice for the man himself, as another feature of his book is that every chapter begins with a quote, whether from a book, song, or film, each quote holds meaning for Graham.

“They’re all quotes I wrote in my journal,” he reveals. “I used to keep a journal, and still do.” At this point he points out that after writing his memoir, he burnt the journals from his teenage years. His reason? “I’d got what I needed to get out of them, it was time for them to go.”

Graham moved to Nottingham in 1999 to begin teaching American Literature at the University of Nottingham, but sooner after his mum died, and drink took over. Living in Beeston during his time with alcoholism, his life used to consist of journeys to and from Sainsbury’s. He describes himself at the time as having “a deathwish, but with cowardice about doing it” and that it was self-harm on a scale he will never return to. He acknowledges the kindness of local ‘Dutch friends’ who came to his rescue, “They were kind to me and helped me out in ways I will never be able to repay.”

During this period, he still read books, particularly those by Anita Brookner. He read poets, listened to music, but he’d stopped writing altogether. In 2009, he finally went into rehab, and the next few years were taken up with having therapy and attending AA meetings which he did for two years.

Sobriety came in early 2010, at which point he was unemployed, which fed into the reasons for him writing the book. He also volunteered for a short time at Oxfam Books and Music in Beeston, a place which allowed him to “learn what it’s like to be in the world again, at an age when you are too old to learn.”

But it was while he was working at Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham (the first place to give him a job) that he began writing his memoir. Previously, he’s written three books: Shopping in Space: Essays on American ‘Blank Generation’ Fiction (with Elizabeth Young); The “Priest”, They Called Him: The Life and Legacy of William S. Burroughs and Screaming with Joy: The Life of Allen Ginsberg.

It was being surrounded by books, objects which he is ‘in awe of’ that provided him with the boost he needed to begin writing again. Originally, The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness was going to be a semi-autobiographical novel called ‘Meta-Metamorphosis’ taking the opening lines of Kafka’s Metamorphosis for inspiration. However, this idea was scrapped, and he began putting together scraps of memories which would form the early process for his completed memoir.

He then shared these scraps with close friends, “a way of introducing them to a bit of me”, and it was Julie Hesmondhalgh, known for her role as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street, who read some of these scraps and offered encouragement, which was greeted by him with reluctance. She sent some of these to Jonathan Coe, who Graham says he has “never been out of touch” with and this was the springboard for him getting the memoir published by Picador. “All my heroes were published by Picador,” he says. “They were my dream publisher.”

The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness is out now

A Parliament of Pride

One day, you might be out and about in Beeston’s pubs or cafes, and you might spot someone doing crochet. That someone is likely to be Frea Waninge, 30, who enjoys making little crochet owls with a difference…

I met Frea over tea and coffee, and it wasn’t long before she’d produced a bunch of multi-coloured crochet owls from her bag, and placed them on the table. This caught the attention of one of the baristas, who immediately said how cute they are.

However, these are not just any owls, they are pride owls. Frea uses a pattern that she found online by fellow crochet-lover Josephine Wu (a.k.a A Morning Cup of Jo Creations) but has adapted the colours of yarn she uses.

Frea bases her owls on the colours used for various pride flags which represent a range of different identities and sexualities. She has been doing crochet long before she began making the owls; she would make scarves, hats, and even phone covers for herself. One of her scarves was made using the colours representative of asexuality, as Frea identifies as ace. Once she discovered the owl pattern, she decided to use the yarn she had left from her ace scarf, and made an asexu-owl.

“I showed it to someone and they said ‘if you were to do more of them and sell them, I’d be happy to buy them’ so I started buying yarn and making lots of testers, and eventually put a couple of designs on Etsy,” she tells me.

Since then the owl family has grown to include a number of sexualities and identities including: bisexuowl, asexuowl, pansexuowl, arowlmantic (aromantic), polyamorous (polyamorowl?), agender owl, transgender owl, nonbinary owl, genderqueer owl, rainbowl, demisexuowl, graysexuowl.

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One of Frea’s main reasons behind creating these owls is because she knows how amazing it feels when you find something that represents you. “It’s like a code,” she says. “that’s why I was looking to include more obscure ones that people may not have heard of. The demi (demi-sexual) one is new and it’s not often included in stuff so to find something that represents them is really cool.” Soon, she will be adding a gender fluid owl and a lesbian owl, and she often gets requests from people to do owls for identities she hasn’t heard of.

“There’s so many that I don’t know about,” she reveals. “Someone contacted me asking if I do Feminamoric ones. If you say ‘I’m lesbian’ that only really works if you identify as a woman, if you’re non-binary and you love women, there’s not really a good term for it so they invented Feminamoric,” she explains. “That kind of language can be really helpful.”

She adds, “When people ask for another one I’ll try and accommodate that.” But she admits that she was faced with a dilemma when someone asked her to make a straight pride owl. “I said to them, well that would be taking the time that I could put into minority orientations…so no.”

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Frea works in admissions at the University of Nottingham and has recently completed a PhD in Linguistics at the uni, where she is also a member of the Gilbert & Sullivan society. She moved to the UK in 2011 from the Netherlands, and lived in Beeston for 5 years before moving to Dunkirk where she has been for a year. But it was Beeston’s friendly community that sparked Frea’s love for crochet up again, as she had originally learnt it from her mum as a child.

“I joined a church choir to meet people, because I knew nobody when I moved here, it was very awkward. So I joined the church choir here in Beeston St Johns, and people from there did Monday night knitting. Angie, one of the ladies from the church, helped me to learn to crochet and do a scarf. She gave me the needles and taught me how to do it, because I’d completely lost how it works.”

She started making the owls in April of this year, and sells them on Etsy at £4.50 per owl, and all the money from sales goes back into making more owls and buying yarn which she gets from the Beeston shop Yarn on Chilwell High Road. “Yarn is a lovely business and she’s really helpful and is always happy to order stuff in for me,” says Frea.

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Each owl used to take her about an hour to make, but she’s since got the timing down to half an hour to 45 minutes, and she does them in batches because it’s a lot faster. “It puts me at about £6 an hour if I was doing it all the time,” she says. “It’s not very expensive, and I know it’s good stuff, and I know I can always get it.”

In future, she wants to start making other animals to help fly the pride flag. “I really wanna do an Octopride! You can do the legs with different colours. I wanna do unicorns with different coloured hair that comes out, and bi-icorns and pan-icorns.”

I ask her if she’s ever considered having a stall at Nottinghamshire Pride, “I was considering doing it this year but obviously I’d need to make lots of them and that was just at a time when it was really busy because it’s pride time,” she says. “The plan this year is to make a load, regardless of how many of them sell or not, because it’s fun. And whatever is left at the end of the year I’ll bring to pride.”

She points out that crochet isn’t something she wants to make a career out of, it’s just for fun and is her way of helping to raise awareness and give people something cute to identify with.

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Our interview comes to a close with Frea saying “That one’s for you!” and handing me a bisexuowl, which I happily accept.

Frea’s owls are available at: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/prideandpunk

Like the Facebook page for more owl-y updates: @prideandpunk

Beeston’s Own Poem

Since launching Buzzword: A Poem for Beeston at the start of August, the past month has been filled with Beestonians and others sending their poems in…

All of these were collected, numbered, put into four groups and then presented anonymously to our eagerly awaiting judges who had the unenviable task of choosing a winner. They produced a shortlist of 12 poems, a selection of which is published in this issue, with others to be published in future issues.

We were delighted and impressed by the entries we received and the quality of poetry entering the Buzzword inbox. There are some truly heartfelt and altogether brilliant poems which go a long way in expressing our community spirit and why this town is a great place to live, work, grow up and make memories.

We have two winners, one from each category. Our under 16s winner is Ava Waring, 12, for her poem ‘What do you see?’. Our over 16s winner is Cathy Grindrod with her poem ‘The Beekeeper’. Well done to both winners, you’ve done Beeston proud.

JM

Buzzword: Beeston – poem by Jade Moore

Beeston (part one)

It’s lying in bed and knowing exactly which train just went by
(because I live in the Rylands and the train tracks are right behind)
it’s the 25 past going to Matlock so I stay in bed till half past.

It’s the too early too loud sound of a helicopter going over my house
and I’m thinking it’s gonna land on the roof
when really I know it’s going to that field between the tram and train tracks.

It’s multiple texts on my phone from my mum saying ‘are you coming up Beeston?’
And it’s arranging to meet on the benches by Tesco.

It’s being half-dressed (or half undressed) and wondering if I’m being looked at
like in that novel The Girl on the Train, a book that was strangely relatable.

It’s walking down my street passing houses I grew up with
most of them with the same people inside
and it’s seeing my ginger cat race by because instead of leaving, I should feed him.

It’s sticking my headphones in and listening to the same songs I
did when I was a teenager, walking up to Beeston a one person Black Parade.

It’s knowing, from home to the high street, where all the unlucky three grates are
and avoiding them automatically.

(yeah I’m one of those people, blame my sister she started it)

It’s waving to the driver of the Eighteen bus as I go over Plessy bridge,
and seeing the love of my brother’s life as she’s on her way to co-op for a shift.

It’s waiting at the Queen’s Road crossing knowing that when the cars behind me move,
the green man will come on soon and I can continue

and end up walking by that window decorated with seasonal displays: it’ll be Hallowe’en soon
and I can’t wait to see what they create.

It’s looking at my reflection in Amores and saying I’ll go there soon
but I never do, cause I guess I’m too romantic and I want it to be a date.

It’s getting to the traffic lights just before Tesco and feeling sorry for the cars who have to wait
because look there’s a tram coming, and which one’s it gonna be?

Is it D.H. Lawrence, Alan Sillitoe, Vicky McClure, or any of those other big local Nottingham names?
I feel a rush when it speeds up then I look to my left

and the 36 is on its way, I’m not catching that one today but I still appreciate all those journeys I made,
the books I read, the friends I bumped into and the conversations we had.

It’s walking by Tesco, and that empty bit of land,
and it’s seeing my mum sat waiting, just where I knew she’d be.

It’s calling those benches Bench Club, cause we’re there all the time,
and it’s saying hello then sitting down beside her for five minutes
before we both get up and walk down the high road…

Beeston (part two)

It’s hearing the price of strawberries over the noise of people buying them,

it’s walking into WHSmiths and looking at books even though they’re cheaper at Tesco,

and it’s going into New Look cause they’ve always got a sale on,
and coming out with two t-shirts: one that says ‘boys whatever, cats forever’ and the other:
‘I need space’.

It’s waiting in Boots for some tablets, or browsing make up I don’t wear,
then ending up in Poundland buying everything I didn’t go in for.

It’s looking in the windows of Rudyard’s in case I see someone I know,
then forcing myself past Thornton’s because I’ve got plenty of boxes at home.

It’s buying a new diary from Ryman’s, because that’s where I’ve always got them from,
and hoping they never get rid of that notebook, because I’ve made a home in those pages.

It’s telling myself I shouldn’t go in Oxfam Books, cause I’m there on Wednesday’s anyway
and I’ll only buy more books, but I go in and look at the poetry
and they still don’t have any e.e.cummings.

So in frustration I go across the street to what was the Beeston Bookshop,
and is now Book Land
and I pick up a tome for £1 that’ll sit on a pile at home for a while
but still isn’t e e cummings (and they don’t have him either.)

It’s ending up where I always end up, in The Bean.
And it’s getting loads of stamps on my card because I’m there every day.

And it’s writing, or reading, or meeting, or just drinking,
but here I’m surrounded by people who know Beeston.

So it’s being on my own in a cafe, and knowing I’m not alone,
because I get my shopping from Sainsbury’s,
and I buy too many books from Tesco,
and I have to divert to Lidl for the pastries,
and I’ve never known a high street without a beeman,
or a small town with so much going on.

So I stick my headphones back in
and pretend I’m a performer and that the whole of Beeston is singing along.

 

Jade Moore

Buzzword: A Poem For Beeston

We’ve come over all poetic. And no, that doesn’t mean this entire issue is written in verse. Instead, we’re eager to find a poem befitting of Beeston.

This month we are launching our very own poetry award, Buzzword: a poem for Beeston, in a bid to discover some hidden talent and quality poetry.

We know you’re out there, and it doesn’t matter whether you’ve never written a poem before in your life, if you can express your thoughts/memories/insights/feelings about Beeston in something resembling poetry, then you’re in with a shot.

And don’t worry, it doesn’t even have to rhyme. Take your time, think it through. The right words will surely make their way to you…

This isn’t just a competition for competition’s sake either, you could win £100 (or £50 if you’re under 16), an actual trophy to show off to your friends and family, your poem will form part of an anthology and you’ll be a published poet!

So what’s the catch? Well, there isn’t one. You don’t even have to live in Beeston! As long as the limerick/haiku/sonnet/epic etc. relates to Beeston in some way, it will qualify. You can submit more than one entry if you find yourself overcome by the urge to write…and it won’t cost you a penny because it’s free to enter.

We’ve got some star judges lined up to cast their eager eyes over each entry, and trust me, they’re just as excited as we are.

Our lovely writers here have also had a go at writing their own Beeston poems to provide some inspiration (by way of being terrible), and you can find them here with more details about the award.

Have a peek then take up your pens, readers, and write us a poem (or two)!

JM

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