Today I’m sharing the opening pages from Your Friend Forever by Zena Barrie with the Damppebbles.com book tour. The book was published last week.
Preston, 1981. Maud, who is twelve and lives with her dysfunctional parents and her elder brother, spends a lot of her time in her bedroom writing letters to her favourite popstar, Tom Harding, the lead singer of a punk band called Horsefly.
No one really understands her or tries to – and she thinks Tom just might have some answers to her many, many questions…
Please check out the reviews by the fabulous book bloggers above.
For the attention of Mr Tom Harding
Friends of Horsefly
PO BOX 113
8th January 1981
22 Slater Street
Dear Mr Harding,
One’s name is Maud Harrison and one is pleased to make your acquaintance. One is twelve years old, thirteen next week so one might as well say one is thirteen (a teenager). One lives in Preston, not in the centre where all the shops are, but in a place called Hutton. It’s basically just lots of houses. There are some posh houses and some not posh houses. I live in one of the not posh houses. We do still have all our windows though (although the bathroom window is held in with chewing gum) so one mustn’t complain about one’s lot. One’s mother called one’s father a ‘fucking fucker’ when she realised he had fixed the window with Hubba Bubba and not special window putty from the do-it-yourself shop. Apparently it’s ‘not the same fucking thing’. One is a really big fan of your band (Horsefly) and of you in particular (as you are the songwriter and one gets a lot from the songs: life information, feelings, and most importantly inspiration for one’s life). One read in Smash Hits that you collect thimbles since your Great Grandma left you some in her will. How did she die? (I hope it’s not hereditary.) One has enclosed the thimble from one’s Mum’s sewing box. She doesn’t use it (one has never seen her use it anyway). One hopes it fits. Your hands are probably bigger than Mum’s. Do you have big hands? One has wrapped it in toilet roll (it’s clean). Please could you send one your autograph and post it to one in the enclosed SAE (stamped addressed envelope)? One really likes the trousers you were wearing in Sounds magazine last month. They are quite unusual aren’t they? You never see trousers like that in Preston. One only has one pair of trousers and they are flared and much too short so it can be quite embarrassing having to wear them. One has grown quite a lot recently, in length but not in width. One doesn’t have any women’s hips yet, you cannot pinch an inch anywhere. One is now the same height as a naturally short woman or a woman who has suffered stunted growth due to poor health.
Yours in anticipation of a favourable reply, Miss Maud Harrison
P.S. How tall are you?
P.P.S. Are you married?
P.P.P.S. I hope you don’t mind receiving unsolicited correspondence (letters). I suppose it comes with the territory of being a very successful pop star.
P.P.P.P.S. It’s not that I don’t have any actual hip bones. I do, I can feel them.
They’re just still in line with my rib cage. I’ve been led to believe this will change after I have metamorphosed (changed) into a functional woman. How old were you when you changed into a functional man?
Friends of Horsefly
PO BOX 113
14th January 1981
22 Slater Street
(I do hope it’s okay to call you that. I’m trying to be less formal but not overly familiar. Do please let me know at your earliest convenience if you’d prefer me to address you in a different or in a more inappropriate manner).
Hello, it’s me, Maud Harrison, I’ve written to you before (last week). Did you get my letter? Firstly apologies if I confused you in my last letter by saying ‘one’ all the time. I read that that was the proper way to refer to yourself, but my English teacher took me aside the other day after I’d used it in some homework, an essay about what I’d done over Christmas (very little), and asked me if I was the Queen and when I said no he told me to ‘stop bloody referring to yourself as “one”, then’.
When I opened my exercise book he’d also put in the margin that he’d stopped reading after six pages because it was too long. So I’m very sorry if it was confusing, I’m quite new to writing letters. I’ve only really written one before that I can recall and it was to a girl in France called Marie who was supposed to be my pen pal. My teacher gave me her name and address. I didn’t know and still don’t know much French so it wouldn’t have been a very good letter. Mostly just asking her directions really. She never wrote back.
I’m not completely sure that my Mum posted it to be honest, French stamps are quite expensive.
I go to Hutton South Comprehensive, I’m in the second year, most of the people there (pupils and teachers) are dreadful and the lessons don’t do much to inspire me. Every day we go through the motions of a normal day at high school, everyone is just waiting for their lunch and then waiting until the bell goes and we can all go home, no one actually wants to be there, it’s a shame really when we’re all supposed to be learning. The teachers all smell of coffee and fags apart from Mr Parkinson who Sarah (my best friend) says smells of whisky (and fags). I’ve never had a fag or drunk whisky and my Mum and Dad only drink tea, Dad did used to go to the pub but he hasn’t for a long time. Sarah’s Mum drinks coffee but I’ve never tried it. Sarah has had Mellow Bird’s (sexy coffee).
I’d really like to play in a rock band when I grow up. At school when we do music the only instruments are recorders, xylophones, euphoniums and trumpets. The music teacher Mr Ward did say I could take a euphonium home and give it a try but Mum said I’m not allowed to learn that type of instrument because of my asthma, well she said ‘good God no way’, then she said because of my asthma. I hardly ever get asthma really, my brother has it worse than me. I told all this to my teacher and he just rolled his eyes. I’m not sure if he was rolling his eyes to my Mum or rolling his eyes at my asthma. What do you think? I’m not sure teachers should be allowed to roll their eyes at the pupils. It’s not fair for them not to explain things properly. Do you think I should ask him to explain himself? I don’t really like the noise of a euphonium anyway so I’m not too bothered. They don’t have a euphonium in The Clash do they? You don’t have a euphonium in Horsefly do you? It’s only really good for Songs of Praise (when you can see all the people
in their best clothes miming along to a hymn hoping to get talent spotted) or if you want the noise of an elephant or a rhino plodding through some woods or something, and that’s not really music is it? More of a sound effect. My Dad has a record of sound effects, I’m not sure why. Lots of ones of taps running and the sound of rain and different doors opening and closing. It rains all the time in Preston so we don’t really need a record of it. It’s not like I ever miss the rain so much that I want to play it on a record. We can’t play it any more anyway as the radiogram gives us an electric shock if we plug it in. Dad won’t get rid of it though, even though it takes up half the front room. He doesn’t like your music, he says he only likes Ska. He bought some two–tone shoes and Mum got really angry about them. She called him a ‘fucking arse-hole’. I think it’s because we don’t have much money. Also I’m not sure where he’ll wear them. I haven’t seen him wear them yet, apart from sat in the front room but he did look really happy with them on, he kept looking down and smiling at them, I was watching him for ages, I watched him watching the telly in his new shoes. I could do with some new shoes. When did your feet stop growing? It would be really handy if mine would stop growing.
I’m being shouted at so I have to go now.
Your most humble servant,
P.S. Mum was just shouting in general, it wasn’t specifically at me, but when I went downstairs it became specifically at me so I’ve come upstairs again, I just seem to always be in the way.
P.P.S. I’m not sure if I am a humble servant really. I have quite a humble opinion about what I look like but I have quite a high opinion about my mind (I think it is better than most people’s minds that I come into contact with). I think some of this is down to you. I read an interview in NME where you said you ‘read everything you can get your hands on’, and that you like reading poetry, in particular Keats and Browning. So I try to read everything that I can get my hands on too. Are you familiar with the poetic works of Pam Ayres?
P.P.P.S. Are you humble? You always look quite humble in your pictures, or maybe sad, certainly not proud which I think is the opposite of humble. I’m not a proud person even though I have a high opinion of my own brain, well maybe I’m secretly proud, although I am telling you about it so I think that just makes me a show off. I’ll try to stop doing that.
P.P.P.P.S. I’m going to be a teenager next week. I’m not sure I’m prepared for it at all. I wish there was a book I could read that wasn’t just about puberty. I know my body is going to change but I need to know all the other things. I suppose we are expected to find out for ourselves. I’d rather read a manual so I don’t have to keep getting things wrong. P.P.P.P.P.S. If you’re wondering why I’m called Maud (an old woman’s / witch’s name) it’s because I’m named after my Dad’s auntie that he fancied. She died before I was born though and I’ve never seen a picture of her. It’s probably a good job she’s died because if my Dad had carried on with her instead of my Mum I wouldn’t exist, or I could have been an inbred (a human ass) and incapable of bearing children (if I ever wanted to)
Zena Barrie lives in Manchester and runs the Greater Manchester Fringe and the Camden Fringe. She ran the Kings Arms pub and Theatre in Salford for a while and also the Etcetera Theatre in Camden, as well as working in a wide variety of roles at the Edinburgh Fringe (from street performer to venue manager). In the 90s she did a degree in Drama and Theatre Arts specialising in playwriting. Up until recently she has been co-hosting the award winning spoken word night Verbose. She is also one half of performance art duo The Sweet Clowns. Your Friend Forever is her first novel.
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2Rv70t6
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/32fSBD9
Published in paperback and digital formats by Unbound on 29th April 2021