How would you describe yourself in a single sentence?
I'd say I'm a style slag who is partial to men's underwear under certain circumstances.
Read more of this interview.
What made you write in the first place?
When I was five years old, I was picked out by the Headmistress, Mrs Hill, from the mass of children sitting cross-legged on the floor during a typical Monday morning assembly at an east London infant school. Asian, African, British, European, Caribbean, Other (please specify). No uniform, just specks of coloured cloth and peeps of skin flanked by teachers comfortable on their chairs. We must look like Hundreds n Fousands, I thought. All these colourful children. If you look at em from way up, like a bird, we must look like hundreds n fousands, like when they’re stuck on a marshmallow or somefing. Or on these chocolate buttons from the sweet-shop round the corner, you know, in those little white paper bags with a pleat on the side, and you´d always have at least two of these buttons that’d stick together back-to-back. As I scrambled to my feet, flushed by pride, my eyes on that soft, smiling woman who had just called my name, whose pale, perfumed skin always made me think of candy floss, and whose fingers now dipped into a small pouch (lovely, lovely fingers you got, Missis ´ill...) to produce a lollipop, a hard, round one that you could suck for ages, the magnitude of the moment did not escape me. Mrs Hill, full of praise as she pinned a gold star to my chest. See, I’d been getting nothing but gold stars all last week in my exercise book.
‘For wonderful, clear, joined-up writing like the big children. Well done!’
For the rest of assembly I was allowed to sit at the front, facing the congregated school, all those eyes of all those hundreds n fousands fixed on my gold star. And on ma lollipop.
When I grow up, I’m gonna be a writer n a teacher. I love words, writing ... n I love teachers.
For the rest of that morning, I would forget my secret envy of Babita and Rajinder, my best friends who could speak other languages (though they hated speaking them in front of us), and whose shopfronts were jewelled with a curly writing that looked to me like some kind of music. Why couldn’t I be two people instead of one, too? At home I would play at being one of them, invent a language to imitate them. Put my poncho on my head to emulate Babita’s wondrous black mane tamed into a thick rope of a plait that dangled in a surly fashion beyond the seat of her chair (whereas Rajinder wore his hair in a bun under a hankie with an elastic around it and when I asked him once to take it off so I could have a look he said he wasn’t allowed to). Right now, I didn’t mind my picky-picky hair or the fact that I could only speak English. For the rest of that morning, I would be the source of envy.
I’ll let you ave a lick a my lolly at play time cos we’re friends, innit? I smiled over to them. And they smiled back.
I´m gonna be a writer. One day. I just know I am.