Thievery: Kerry Hudson
Thievery is a series of blog posts about my story inspirations.
One Thursday per month, I invite my favourite writers to share the inspirations behind their stories. Here’s one from novelist Kerry Hudson.
Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma is published this month by Chatto & Windus.
‘Get out, you cunting, shitting, little fucking fucker!’ were the first words I ever heard. The midwife, a shiny-faced woman who learned entirely new turns of phrase that night, smoothed Ma’s hair.
‘Yer both fine. We’ll have tae give yeh a quick stitch up later, but – baby girl just ripped you a wee bit coming out.’
Ma laid me, sticky and slack-limbed, on her chest and wondered how something so pink, puckered and fragile could be so vicious as to tear the person who was meant to love her most in the world. But that was the Ryan Women: fishwives to the marrow, they were always ready to fight and knew the places that would cut deepest.
I remember exactly the first time I watched ‘The Commitments’. I was around fifteen and living in Great Yarmouth, it was on the telly (cinema outings were reserved as birthday treats and then it was for big blockbusters…I’d paid with my own pocket-money to watch ‘Braveheart’), it was probably on Channel 4 when it still had those primary coloured blocks that flew in zero gravity before making the ‘4’ and that when I watched it that first time I thought it was the truest, funniest thing I’d ever seen on the telly.
The swearing, the rooms full of shitty furniture, ever present brown sauce bottles and mugs of tea, the bored/gorgeous/working on a chip van young women, the signing on young lads, fly-by-night Jimmy Rabbitte, pawn-shops, parole violations, community centre gigs, men quick to use their fists, women sharp with their tongues and a Da obsessed by Elvis.
I lay on my stomach in front of the fire eating a bag of crisps and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…people like us (but Irish) and they weren’t on a soap opera or on ‘Trisha’ – they were in a film about their lives, loves, passions, hopes and yes…soul. After that night, I saved two weeks pocket-money to buy the soundtrack, rushed home from school every night and sang the whole thing lolling in the bath (no, not really a normal teenager) till I drove my Mum mad. That’s about the time I got into acting and so I wanted to be Imelda with the amazing arse because all the boys fancied her but I really thought Bernie was the most gorgeous of all (still do…).
A year or so later my Mum would pass Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle on to me, and from that I’d go on to read The Commitments and everything else by Doyle I could get my hands on. That film, and those books, were the first time I ever saw how you could portray the reality of rough areas and council estates honestly but with real dignity; how you could communicate the laughter and smartness and heartache that exists in those places too. And I know it’s because of that night lying on my stomach, eating salt and vinegar crisps and then my time in a tiny Norfolk library ordering in Roddy Doyle’s back-catalogue, that when I came to write a book Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma is the book that I chose to write.
Mr Doyle, Mr Parker, I thank you.