Based on Holly’s own experiences, The Coventry Conch shares days in a young girls life, growing up in 1990’s suburban Coventry.
Aunty Mandy has come to stay with us for a few days. She’s fallen out with Uncle Simon again.
Aunty Mandy has been sleeping at ours a lot over the last few months. I secretly love it when she rings up crying her eyes out asking if she can stay again. She’s really fun and I’ve been learning loads about her that I didn’t know before like:
Aunty Mandy loves reading. By her bed she has loads of books like Love on Death Row, Sexy Psychopaths and Married to a Monster.
Apart from Nanny Pam, Aunty Mandy is the only person I know who watches Channel Five. Sometimes I sneak into her room when everyone’s gone to bed and we watch documentaries. Last night we watched one about dead pets that come back and haunt their owners.
Aunty Mandy never puts the big light on. She sleeps in Josh’s room when she comes to stay and lights loads of candles. She says its better Fung Shay, but I think it’s because she doesn’t like the Power Rangers on Josh’s duvet.
Mum’s in the kitchen washing up, I’m sat on the side eating a packet of Jaffa Cakes. I bite the disgusting jelly bits off first, hold my nose, and swallow them whole so I can enjoy the rest of them.
I ask mum, ‘Why’s Aunty Mandy fallen out with Uncle Simon again?’
‘Oh I don’t know Hol, and don’t go asking her, she needs some space so just leave her alone tonight, yeah?’
I’m sat at the end of Aunty Mandy’s bed finishing off the Jaffa Cakes. I think about what to say for a bit, but I don’t want there to be a big fat elephant in the room so I just ask her.
‘Why did you fall out with Uncle Simon this time?’
‘We didn’t really fall out Hol. Si doesn’t know how to fall out. Whenever I try and have a row with him he just shuts himself in the spare room with his model cruise ships and whistles the Big Break theme tune until I stop shouting. He’s just really REALLY boring and I’m really REALLY bored!’
Aunty Mandy’s teaching me how to make your face look really tanned with loads of make-up, when the doorbell goes. It’s Uncle Simon.
We can hear Uncle Simon in the porch talking to mum. ‘It’s got warm again. I didn’t know whether to wear my jacket today because it was a bit nippy this morning, so I wore it anyway and just took it off when it got a bit warmer.’
Aunty Mandy gets into bed and puts her head under the Power Rangers duvet.
I ask her if she’s ok and she muffles, ‘Tell him to fuck off. No, wait tell him I’m really ill with a tummy bug, yeah tell him that, he hates tummy bugs!’
Uncle Simon’s in the garden having a cup of tea with Dad. Dad thinks Uncle Simon is really boring too and usually when Uncle Simon comes round Dad says he’s got to fix something in the garage. There are no tools to fix anything in the garage, just a thousand bikes, a manky old tent and everything that has ever broken in our house. Last time I went to look for Dad when Uncle Simon was here he was sat on a broken exercise bike reading his Viz magazine.
I walk up to Uncle Simon and tell him that Aunty Mandy has a tummy bug and can’t be more than a metre away from the bog, which means she can’t see him.
Uncle Simon says, ‘oh dear, yes I’ll steer clear of that one. I hate tummy bugs last time I got one I had to move back in with my mother because she’s got a more powerful cistern. You have to wait for ours to refill, which is a nightmare if you need a double flush.’
Dad asks me if I’ve been painting a fence because my face is covered in Ronseal, I tell him ‘it’s Desert Island Mystique Bronzer by Avon actually!!’
I think Dad must feel sorry for Uncle Simon today because he hasn’t gone to the garage yet and he even asks Uncle Simon about football, which he hates!
‘Did you see the football?’
‘I don’t know.’
Then we sit in silence for a bit
After a while Uncle Simon starts telling Dad about how he’s decided that he still doesn’t like tomatoes because he had a BLT at the Beefeater on Tuesday night and it had a tomato in and he didn’t like it.
Dad says that he’s got to fix something in the garage.
Mum comes out to the garden with another cup of tea for Uncle Simon and one of the dodgy boxes of chocolates Grandad gave us for Christmas. There are no menu cards and when me and Jenny ate a box only two were nice, the rest of them taste like dog chocolate. There are still twenty-six boxes under Mum’s bed, so anytime someone comes round she tries to get rid of a few.
Mum holds the box while Uncle Simon chooses. He points at one and says, ‘What’s this one?’
‘I don’t know Si.
‘I don’t know Si.’
‘And this one?’
‘I don’t know Si there’s no menu card so you just have to guess.’
‘Does this one have nuts in?’
‘Listen Si I think Mandy needs to rest up, so maybe come back tomorrow yeah, you can take the whole box with you if you like.’
Uncle Simon gets up to go, ‘hhhhmm jacket on or off.’
Mum says ‘fuckin’ ell’ really quietly to herself.
I go up to Josh’s room with a box of Grandad’s chocolates. Aunty Mandy’s in bed with all her candles on, half watching a documentary on Channel Five about naked neighbours and half reading a book called I Killed For The One… Again.
We try and find the nice chocolates by biting a bit of each one, and I talk about the time I thought I saw Carol next door gardening naked but she was just wearing beige trousers.