I once said to Michael Sheen – you don’t get to say that very often, do you? I once said to Michael Sheen that saying you wanted to be a writer when I was growing up was like saying you wanted to be an astronaut.
For a girl, growing up in the relentless poverty of the ’80s, the dole not stretching to heat and food, the Provi-man’s knocking at the door for repayment of loans my parents could never afford, saying you wanted to be a writer was mad, like saying you wanted to be an astronaut.
I didn’t know any writers. Writers were posh, went to posh school that I’d go to with my mum to clean after school. What did a writer do anyway? Sit in their special writing room, sharpening their pencils before having cocktails on the lawn as the sun went down. (I watched a lot of old movies so my references may have been Noel Coward and Agatha Christie????)
Never mind that my school had written me off already. Never mind that I didn’t attend school for the lack of school shoes. Never mind if I didn’t go to school, I didn’t get my free school dinner, with that shameful little token that, some days, was my only meal.
In all of this I still wrote stories, still made them up on my long walks across the fields, feet wet, trying to keep out of everyone’s way.
Trust me, where I came from people didn’t become writers and the knowledge, knowing that I could never be an astronaut, ground down deep into my bones, staining the very marrow. A childish dream from a hungry girl.
We all have to grow up and get proper jobs, feed our kids, struggle to make sure they never go hungry.
Well, last night I was launched into space.
Along with 10 other fabulously talented writers taking part in A Writing Chance with New Writing North, Michael ‘bleeding’ Sheen – I think he could change his name to that, I’ve said it like that enough. Michael ‘bleeding’ Sheen performed our work on stage in Cardiff.
When I was chatting to Michael, trying to explain what a difference being part of this programme had made to me, how it had shifted my whole feeling about myself, about who I was, about how I had become a writer, Michael Sheen asked me what it was like to become an astronaut?
Then he went on stage and performed my words
The section he performed is from the beginning of my novel in progress about a woman who has forgotten she is the goddess of the River Severn. It begins with the myth of how the rivers of Wales got their goddesses. A reinvention of a tiny three-line myth I found in my research, Michael made it sound like a story of old.
I cannot tell you how amazing it was to hear words I’d written in the dark of early morning come to light on the stage.
Well, I don’t need to tell you as you can listen to those words being performed in ‘Margins to Mainstream’ on St David’s Day, Tuesday 1st March 2022 at 6.30 pm on BBC Radio Wales. (If you are outside Wales, go to the BBC Sounds App and type in ‘Margins to Mainstream’.)