Kate Stone

Kate Stone

The Coventry Conch: The Living Dead

Based on Holly’s own experiences, The Coventry Conch shares days in a young girls life, growing up in 1990’s suburban Coventry.

11am

I’m skiving round Nanny Pam’s today.  I thought I had tummy bug this morning but it turned out to be a false alarm, and I’d just had too much Sunny D round Amy’s last night. Mum had to go to college, so she dropped me at Nanny Pam’s. On the way round she made me sit on a bin bag in the car just in case.

Nanny Pam and me are watching This Morning; there’s a woman on talking about how she’s been cheating on her husband with a ghost.  The TV presenter asks if she has ever been intimate with the ghost. Nanny Pam stares at the TV while her Rich Tea biscuit breaks off into her coffee.

The phone rings, I look at Nanny Pam, without taking her eyes off the telly she says, ‘Be a love and get that will yer.’

I answer the phone but before I even say hello, I can hear Nanny Pam’s friend Maeve shouting her mouth off, as usual.

‘Are you watching that woman on This Morning, Pam? Dirty Cow! Fancy cheating on her husband with a ghost. At least when my Mick had an affair I could go round and smack her one, but that poor bastard doesn’t stand a chance against a ghost.…’

‘Maeve…MAEVE! It’s not Nan, it’s Holly!’

‘Oh hello Holly love. Did you see that woman on This Morning? Dirty Cow! Fancy cheating on her husband with a ghost…’

Nanny Pam shouts from the living room, ‘Who is it?’

I say, ‘It’s Maeve.’

Maeve says, ‘Is that Pam?’

I say, ‘Yeah’.

‘Ask her if she’s coming to bums and tums later?’

‘Nan, are you coming to bums and tums later?’

Nanny Pam says, ‘Is Sheila going?’

I say, ‘Is Sheila going?’

Maeve says she thinks so.

Nanny Pam eventually comes to the phone, but not before Maeve tells me one of her daft stories about how her friend Maxine’s dog has learnt how to start a fire.

While Nanny Pam’s on the phone to Maeve I sit down next to her and pick up the BT Phone Book from the shelf for something to look at. It’s next to a rank photo of me from a couple of years ago when I was holding three of Nanny Pam’s guinea pigs at once. I’m looking dead chuffed with myself even though I’m wearing Nanny Pam’s brown Tesco fleece. Sometimes I think that my biggest fear of being murdered is Nanny Pam dragging this photo out for Midlands Today News.

Nanny Pam and Maeve start talking about the woman on This Morning.

‘She says they have, but it feels really cold, like a Calippo, so they don’t do it that often.’

I look through the pages of the phone book while Nanny Pam gasses on to Maeve. First I find Amy’s number, which is dead sad because I know it off by heart anyway, then I find Aunty Mandy’s and then I do something really sad and look for Tom’s! I’ve started to fancy him even more now that he’s started to use gel in his hair.

I know Tom’s Dad’s name is Geoff so I narrow it down to three possible G.Stevensons. I think about writing them down and prank calling them at the weekend with Amy. When I think about it a bit more though, I decide that it would be a pretty tragic thing to do. I put the phonebook back on the shelf and pick up the Avon catalogue next to it, to cheer myself up a bit with the smelly pages.

Nanny Pam starts up her usual chat with Maeve about who has died this week.

‘…and Anne’s brother in law.’

‘Yeah, and Chip Shop Pete’s Mum…yeah it exploded apparently.’

’Eighty-six, but still that’s no way to go.’

‘Oh and remember Barry from The Bell, you know the one who stank of cheese and onion crisps! Yeah, two weeks they said, and he only went in with a broken toe.’

‘And I haven’t seen Margaret across the way for two days now, and she did say she was having some tests done. You haven’t seen her down the club have yer? …’

‘Well, how strange… I don’t know what tests, but she didn’t look too bright the last time I saw her.’

I rub the Avon catalogue against my neck, to try on the ‘Pearls and Lace’ perfume sample. From the window in Nanny Pam’s porch I see Margaret pull up on her drive, I nudge Nanny Pam, but she shrugs me off and keeps talking.

‘I suppose they’ll have to sell Margaret’s house then, I wonder what they’ll get for it, she hasn’t put a conservatory on like us.’

I watch Margaret unload the Asda shopping bags from her car, and let her cat in the house.

Nanny Pam eventually says to Maeve, ‘Ta ra then love, yeah I’ll let you know about Margaret, but it doesn’t look good does it…’

‘Are you going to bums and tums?…No I don’t think I will either then.’

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