I have always been a bit of a fan-girl of Hollie McNish and it seems ages since I last saw her perform. I was delighted to discover that thanks to Poetry on Loan and Brenda Read-Brown, Hollie was coming to perform at The Hive in Worcester.
I always pick up the What’s On Guide and generally gleefully thumb through it… I forgot to have a proper look and only discovered this event in February! The tickets had been on sale for a while and after making enquiries at the library was not holding out much hope of snagging one. But I DID! And then I had to count down the weeks patiently. (I was not patient!)
There were many things that Hollie McNish didn’t know before she was pregnant. How her family and friends would react; that Mr Whippy would be off the menu; how quickly ice can melt on a stomach.
These were on top of the many other things she didn’t know about babies: how to stand while holding one; how to do a poetry gig with your baby as a member of the audience; how drum’n’bass can make a great lullaby. And that’s before you even start on toddlers: how to answer a question like ‘is the world a jigsaw?’; dealing with a ten-hour train ride together; and how children can be caregivers too. But Hollie learned. And she’s still learning, slowly.
Nobody Told Me is a collection of poems and stories taken from Hollie’s diaries; one person’s thoughts on raising a child in modern Britain, of trying to become a parent in modern Britain, of sex, commercialism, feeding, gender and of finding secret places to scream once in a while.
Here for your pleasure is Hollie.
I have a copy of Cherry Pie and I knew that ‘Nobody Told Me’ would be hard for me but I also knew that it contained lots of personal writing and brilliant poetry by Hollie. It is a brash, wonderful, truthful account of motherhood.
I loved every minute of her performance and the fact that she expected about 20 people because it was a library gig. There seemed to be 200 chairs full but I think the official ticket number was 130 – mainly women, but some men too. An audience of Hollie fans and what I particularly loved was that I knew just 4 people there! So there are 100s of people who love poetry and will travel to Worcester to see it – this is good to know.
I chatted to the lovely strangers from Malvern that I sat next to before the event and did a little quiet promoting for SpeakEasy, Poetry Ballroom, Uncorked and WLF.
There was a great atmosphere in the basement – like we had all been invited to some secret club. I once used this space with my writing group, but I had expected the event to be held in the studio. The audience was too big for that space.
I queued up for ages afterwards to chat to Hollie, but unfortunately the majority of people in that queue were mums and there was only so much conversation I could take. Also it was the end of a long, hard week and bless Hollie, she was spending a long time with each individual. I also felt bad (although she told us not to) because I wasn’t buying the book. It is a brilliant book but it is a very tough subject for me at the moment so I know I wouldn’t read it straight away. I will buy it. It is packed full and a bargain on poem/story to £ ratio. But I wasn’t buying it right there. So I freaked myself out a bit in the line and decided to call it a night. I regret now, not waiting to chat with her as I have on previous occasions and it would have made my night to do so. On the flipside I got home really early and had the rest of the evening with Mr G.
It was a joy to watch Hollie perform and listen to the Q & A afterwards. Sharing her writing method and unedited voice was good to know. Witnessing her realising nobody has ever asked her for advice was as funny as hearing about her (pre- Mothercare) advice from her Grandmother. Loved it!