90s Fiction and Sweeties Worth Stealing

pick and mix sweeties

Gimme, gimme, gimme

Ah, Woolworth’s – cheap make-up, vinyl singles and the mighty pick ‘n’ mix. I mourn your passing… In the ’80s and early ’90s any teenager worth their salt knew the layout of their local Woolworth’s like the back of their hand, if only to have an idea of the less risky places in store to shoplift. Or maybe that was just the folks I hung about with.

I’m on the Woolworth’s nostalgia trip because Artists Town, my coming of age tale featuring a type 1 diabetic heroine (so only a teensy bit autobiographical, right?) is now available on Kobo, Apple Books, Scribd et al. To give you a flavour of what’s the book’s like, here is an extract. It’s the early 1990s—so no mobile phones!—and teenage Daisy and her new best friend have just cycled ten miles to a nearby town which holds the promise of the afore-mentioned store… 

Artists Town

Daisy’s legs weren’t co-operating with her brain. They didn’t seem to want to obey the ‘stand up’ command, trying to fold under her instead. She grasped the shelf, the movement causing Katrina to look up.

What’s wi’ you?”

When Daisy didn’t respond at once, Katrina stopped what she was doing and grabbed her arm. “Oh! This is what your mum told me about!”

She sounded excited, but also far away. Daisy felt sweat gathering on her top lip and trickling down her back and the sides of her torso. Gross.

Kat—Kit-Kat! Kitty…” What was her bloody name, what was the name she said Daisy should call her? She tried to remember. The name began with a ‘K’, she was sure, but the rest of it flickered out of reach.

Katrina took hold of Daisy’s arm and pushed her gently down to the floor. “Dextrosol, Daisy?”

Daisy shook her head. “Not, not…no hypo,” she said, her chin slumping onto her chest. Katrina crouched beside her and began to rifle through her jeans pockets and the backpack.

Finding nothing, she stood up. “Stay here. I’ll be right back!”

Their actions had attracted the attention of two older ladies nearby. “Do you think she’s drunk?” one asked the other, pointing at Daisy.

Not…no…” Daisy muttered. It must have come out louder and angrier than she thought, as woman number one took her friend’s arm, and they both hurried away, shooting Daisy a dirty look over their shoulders.

Katrina was back, holding handfuls of pick and mix. “I didn’t know what to get to you, so I just went for the ones covered in sugar,” she said, kneeling next to Daisy. She’d picked cola bottles, jelly babies, shoestrings, bonbons and fizzy chips.

Not…no…”

Shut up!” Katrina said, pushing a cola bottle into Daisy’s mouth. “You’re hypo. Eat. Your mum said sometimes you don’t know when you’re low.”

By the time she’d forced the third cola bottle into Daisy, the shop’s manager had appeared. He’d brought a security guard with him too. Continue reading

A Wee Trip Down 90s Memory Lane

Shift dresses, heroin chic and Brit pop—do you fancy a wee trip down 90s memory lane?

Thanks to the Friends revival on Netflix* and shows such as Derry Girls, the 90s are enjoying a moment. I’m grateful as I’ve just written a book set in the early 90s, and I’m hoping that fondness for the decade will spill over and translate itself into sales.

In the meantime, let’s do a list of terrific 90s things…

Jolly memorable lyrics – it’s the curse of age to look back on the era when you were young and think that’s when the best music occurred. I don’t. I promise I’ve sung along to George Ezra’s Shotgun all summer as it’s so darn catchy. But remembering those 90s songs to conjure up the world as it was then brought back some powerful memories.

My favourite 90s lyrics include:

So move away, Jimmy Blue, before your small, small town turns around and swallows you.

Del Amitri

Wake up the dawn and ask her why? A dreamer dreams she never dies.

Oasis

I feel stupid and contagious. Here we are now, entertain us.

Nirvana

Ever seen a young girl growing old? Trying to make herself a bride.

The Stereophonics

Zephyr in the sky at night I wonder. Do my tears of mourning sink beneath the sun?

Madonna

I could go on, but we’d be here all day. And just to keep things challenging for you, I’ve not specified the song…

Kate Moss—the world’s coolest super-model, and the woman for whom the term heroin chic was coined. Those cheekbones! Those elbows sharp enough to injure a person!

The shift dress – see above for the woman who won the top prize for styling out appearing in public in what looks like your nightie.

Blur versus Oasis—yes, you were meant to choose a team and stick with it. I weighed up Damon Albarn’s gorgeousness versus Liam’s singing technique (I defy you to watch what he does with a microphone and not end up hot and bothered) and came down slightly in favour of Oasis.

Double denim. It was a thing. Match your jacket to your trousers for effortless style. Even better, do a Brittany and Justin and wear it together. No-one will laugh or think it’s naff. Oh no, they won’t.

Madonna. That coffee table book**. The Erotica album every young 90s woman bought and left lying around, even when singing along to Hanky-Panky felt problematic. The pointy-bra you wished you had the confidence to wear.

Artists Town is out now. You can buy it here (UK) and here (US).

*Many of us in the UK will argue Friends never went away; cf Comedy Central and Gold Friends groundhog day.

**Nowadays, she writes kids’ books. My 90s self rolls her eyes.