Seriously, kill me now. I’m in a world of remorse. I’ve let myself down, I’ve let my friends down, but most of all I’ve let BritPop down.
I temporarily forgot Louise Wener’s name.
“HELL, don’t beat yourself up about it!” I hear you cry (in my head I have you, my beautiful reader down as an incredibly kindly person who reads my rants with a nana-esque ‘oh bless her, she’s off again’). But I can’t just let this go. I WAS ON BBC RADIO.
WHOLE HUMAN BEINGS listened as I referred to the utterly gifted writer of such indie classics as ‘Delicious’ and ‘Sale of the Century’ as ‘THAT GIRL FROM SLEEPER’. I am bereft and medicating in the nearest pub to the train station, where I shambled, mortified, off the train.
I fucking hate public speaking. I’ll literally download the contents of my gastrointestinal tract onto the Internet in the written form, but get me in front of large groups of people and I am a total fuck-up waiting to happen. I warned my best friend of this when he insistently appointed me as Best Man. I can very capably organise a stag day (whilst giving myself a mini-mani, writing a to-do list and cooking the dinner), am staggeringly handy when it comes to suit shopping (I carry a tailors tape measure in my handbag, nestling right alongside the empty shotgun cartridge and a miniature Diptyque perfume oil), but expect nothing less than a disastrous wedding day speech. Well, it wasn’t an entire disaster, I suppose. I stayed upright. Which, given that I described myself as a transsexual to nearly 100 people and had to subsequently apologise for my language to elderly relatives, wasn’t bad going. I still have nightmares about it, but try to focus more on the fact that I wore a FANTASTIC frock. And shoes to die for.
I think it all stems back to the horrendous experience we all have as children: The Nativity Play. You see, for someone who finds talking to large groups of people excruciating, I’m an absolute gobshite. I’m loud, brash, annoying and largely can’t contain myself when I have something to say. I hold no truck with all this ‘condition blaming’, but I am, quite unashamedly, a diagnosed hyperactive (as they called ADHD back in the seventies/eighties). I was fed rather unpleasant drugs and subjected to brain scans and all that palaver. The long and short of it being that I am a bloody nightmare to have a conversation with, why everything I write starts off in one place and ends up somewhere in the Antarctic and why underneath it all I am painfully, excruciatingly and hideously self conscious. I scrutinise myself constantly. Yet my school thought it was just naughtiness and bravado and made me stand on a pillar and narrate the school nativity play. I always wanted to be an angel. You got to stand at the back and hide behind the shepherds. Or better still, Mary (I had the hair for it. They NEVER chose blonde Mary’s). In classic catholic school fashion, Mary said shit-all. She just held the plastic doll and concentrated on making sure her blue tea-towel stayed on. Lucky oppressed Mary.
The experience of looking out over the sea of grown-ups was just horrible. As a parent I now know that these people couldn’t give two flying fucks who I was or what I was saying, but no-one had iPhones in those days, so I was actually looking at their upturned faces. I held my cards, squeezed my legs together and clenched my jaw, enunciating the words as instructed, while at the same time trying like bloody fuck to get the words out as quickly as was reasonable so that everyone would look at someone else instead. As an adult, I have the same dry-mouthed, clammy-handed, slightly sick feeling that I had then. Before today’s radio thing I went for a wee no less than four times. I couldn’t drink before my best mans speech, lest I either a) throw caution to the wind and get utterly shitfaced (which, in hindsight, would probably have seen a better outcome) or b) run at full pelt to the loo halfway through screeching “OOOH FUCK, ‘SCUSE ME! I need a Jimmy DESPERATELY”.
Another side effect of this hideous self-consciousness is that I actively despise how my voice sounds in these situations. When I listen back to myself I hear a weird hybrid accent that says more about me than I ever could: part ‘stinkingly Home Counties’, part ‘council estate upbringing’, part ‘my mum standing over me and making me repeat words until I said them properly’. I feel like Eliza Doolittle, forever teetering on the brink of screaming “FACKING ‘ELL, THIS IS PROPERLY HARD WORK!” then watching everyone’s jaws drop as I’m quickly ushered out of the room, swinging my Chloe handbag behind me. You can take the girl out of the council house, but she’ll always drop a big crass bollock somewhere along the line.
I get through these necessary situations by pretending to myself that no-one is listening. I worked my way through fifty minutes on-air by jabbering my way through the off-air bits so that I could kid myself that I was just in a room with a few people, chatting shit while big puffy primary coloured microphones waved casually around in the air. But when you walk out into the open air and the text messages start, you realise.
I’m exposed. I’m a dick. Everyone thinks I’m a dick. They think I sound like a fucking cretin. A cretin with a voice like a duck doing a Princess Di impersonation.
And the worst thing of all?
I know every single word of every single song on the album ‘Smart’ by Sleeper. But for a split second I forgot the name of the woman who wrote those songs. I’m so sorry Louise. Inexcusable.