(Forgive me readers it’s been 2 weeks since my last blog session. I have recently found out that one of my favourite people in the world is going to have to battle multiple myeloma and it has shaken me up….shaken all of my family up. It goes without saying this is going to affect my writing but I know that the person involved would rather I didn’t go into too much detail right now.)
So I am a packed train from Cambridge to London with the heavy weight of bad news on my back and stiff from several nights without proper sleep when the scary man opposite me starts chatting. He is a pit bull in an expensive leather jacket, a parody of the Mitchell brothers, East End gangster. His voice is low and soft and cockney as Bow Bells. I can faintly make out prison tattoos on every knuckle and a large bird tattoo on the web of skin under his thumb. An military eagle?
He asks me what I do and I say ‘I write.’
His name is Mickey G and he says he has just written a book too. He is a good writer he says then stops. Thinks.
‘My handwriting is very neat,’ he confirms.
He went from care to the Norwegian navy to borstal to prison. Been out for fifteen years now. He writes about the underworld. The REAL underworld.
‘Not those muppets like Mad Frankie Fraser. Wouldn’t know a bare knuckle fight if it kicked his bloody head in…’
Mickey himself was one of the Kray’s henchmen. He has a lot of gripping stories. ‘Gripping’ I look at his huge hands, swallow and nod.
He is searching for a title for his biography. ‘Conviction Without Evidence,’ he growls narrowing his eyes. ‘Or, ‘Nothing To Prove’?
‘Goodness, either sounds really…umm…well ‘dramtic”, I begin weakly. ‘ Aren’t you worried about people getting upset about what you write?’ I ask. ‘Could it be a bit..errr..dangerous?’
Mickey looks faintly amused.
He shows me two bullet scars on his face, one zipping his eyebrow to his ear and the other puckering his cheek. He has a cartoon bite mark taken out of his ear.
As I lean in close to Micky’s face to have a good look, I notice the rest of the crowded carriage has fallen deathly silent. They are all enthralled and aghast at the man talking about his scars to the blind lady. ‘Can’t she see he is a ‘bad man’? ‘
He has knife scars all over his body he is saying but to my relief doesn’t stand up and strip off to show me.
He has, in true gangster tradition just been to visit his old mum in Kings Lynn. She is elderly, losing her sight. Mickey leans over and pats Grace and she grins nervously at me. I nudge her and she wags her tail politely.
As the train pulls in he gives me his number, says he will need a ghostwriter.
‘Plenty of money in the underworld’ he grins wolfishly.
I gurn and bow and grin like Grace, almost wagging my tail but I manage not to promise anything. There is ghost writing and there is becoming a ghost …writing…if you get my drift…
With the bad news from last week now heavier, sitting on my shoulders with its clammy, bony legs wrapped around my throat I still can’t sleep and my breathing is shallow all day but Grace and I are booked to go to a writers’ retreat with the MA group in darkest Dorset.
It turns out to be a beautiful place in the Toller valley next to an organic farm. I can only get cell phone reception by balancing precariously on a cow bridge and am forced to leave the phone in my room and participate and so I do; writing, eating, drinking and laughing..a lot. I find myself not
wanting to go to bed but to stay up yakking and giggling around the fire with new friends. The bad news slips half off my shoulders, its grips loosened by red wine and fresh air.
Grace on West bay: (c) Tanvir Bush 09
On Saturday Grace sees the sea for the first time and is flabbergasted. She is perturbed then delighted and grins manically for the rest of the weekend. Sand and sea water and the smell of
wet dog everywhere. Only a few months ago this would have repulsed me but now I breathe in Grace’
s honey stinky scent like Chanel No. 5.
Grace and the Sea: (c) Tanvir Bush 09
West Bay (c) Tanvir Bush 09