‘I first discovered my epic work of poetry in my mother’s loft,’ explains middle-aged mother of two, Angela Walters.
‘I was busy getting rid of my old crap from my mum’s house. She’s been on about it for ages. I did explain to her that my stuff was collectable and quite valuable but she wasn’t buying it and since no one else was either, I agreed to sort it out. Anyway, there I was raking through my old records and school books and stuff when it peeked out under the February 1987 edition of NME: a tattered piece of paper with my writing on it. It was a poem. I read it there and then, and when I’d finished I just went numb.’
Angela, from Peckham, South London went on to tell us that her poem entitled “Wish You Were Here” had been written, (according to the date on it), back in 1986. At the time Angela would have been a teenager and still at school.
‘It was absolutely beautiful but really sad at the same time,’ she told us, ‘My favourite bit of it was:
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fishbowl
Year after year.
‘I was so pleased with the piece, but actually not that surprised. You see, as a teenager, I was quite profound and also, I did write a lot of poetry. So, it made sense that one day I’d come up with something half-decent.’
‘What did you do after you’d discovered your poem?’ asked our intrepid reporter Richard Wright.
‘Well, after I’d managed to get back down the ladder, I rushed to the kitchen to show my mum. She looked at it for a bit, then told me she really liked it. Next, something quite weird happened: She began singing it! It was like she’d already come up with a tune to go with my lyrics. Quite incredible. I remember thinking at the time that maybe that’s where I got my musical talent from. Mum suggested I try and get it published after I’d cleared up all my old crap in the loft.
Angela went on to tell us how she approached a number of agents about getting her writing published. ‘That’s when it started going wrong,’ she said. ‘Most of the agents didn’t get back to me but finally, after a couple of months, I got two responses.
I was so excited but then, when I read them, I was immediately disappointed. One just said, “Is this some kind of joke?” I didn’t know what they meant. And the second, well that just talked about legal action and copyright laws and stuff. By then of course I was totally confused.’
The South London Tribute found out from Angela that it was actually several weeks before she learnt the dreadful truth about the poem.
‘I read it aloud to my mates who told me they thought they’d heard it before somewhere. That kind of ruled out me coming up with it. I mean, bloody hell, it had been in the loft for 20 years. Plus, one of my friends reckoned his brother had the song on an old LP.’
But the real heartbreak came a few days later when Angela heard her song on the radio.
‘I couldn’t believe it, they were playing my song, well the song that wasn’t actually mine. That’s when it really hit home. I went straight round my mum’s house. I had to ask her. I said, “Jesus, Mother, have you never heard of Pink Floyd? I mean that was your bloody generation.”
‘Then it all fell into place and I remembered everything: That bored afternoon at school. Sitting beside Denise Preston. She had a copy of Smash Hits on her desk, next to her scientific calculator. She wouldn’t let me borrow it, even after I’d bought her a Wham bar from the tuck shop at playtime. I just wanted the back page – you see it had some lyrics of a song I really liked on it. Well, you can guess which one. In the end, I just copied the words out onto a ripped-out page from my maths book, which explains the squares.
‘Thinking about it now,’ Angela admitted, ‘it did seem a bit weird how Mum managed to remember all the words to a poem I’d written two decades ago, and then sing them back to me, Christ, she even hummed a little instrumental bit at the beginning,’ Angela told us tearfully.
When asked if she was disappointed at not have written one of the greatest songs of the ’70s, Angela replied: ‘Yes, at first I must admit I was really upset and quite embarrassed. But not anymore. You see when I went back to tidy my pile of crap in the loft, I found another old poem I’d written. It’s quite a weird one actually, but I really like it. It’s about this guy in space talking to this other guy at Ground Control. I think I’m on to a winner with this one.’
So good luck from all of us at The South London Tribute. We look forward to seeing your poem, ‘Lost, Spaceship Man’ in print in the not-too-distant future.
Melissa Vardy is a working-class mother from the depths of Peckham, South London. She is also an out and proud dyslexic bi-sexual whose work has been published on The Deserter website, the Frazzled website and in The Haven. She blogs at the-sarcastic-mother.co.uk/