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Anne Shelton was my mum from 1952 until 1957. Alma Cogan took over
until 1966, then she disappeared into the television and we never
saw her again. Lita Roza did the job for a little while but
couldn‘t stick it. I think my smart-arse brother pissed her off.
Marion Ryan was my mum’s sister and used to carry me home from the
park in a big wicker shopping bag. She was my mum from late 1966
until the remains of The Vernons Girls turned up, but more of them
later. Ruby Murray was a friend of my mum’s best friend: they used
to take in ironing. The Beverley Sisters lived in the house on the
corner of Liverpool Road and Manchester Road opposite the Post
Office and next door to the old woman who had loads of cats.
Shirley Bassey used to work in our butcher’s. Jackie Trent would
come to coffee mornings at our house and insist on helping with
the washing up after everyone else had gone. Petula Clark was a
friend of my dad, and was always first to suggest a sing-song
around the piano on a Sunday teatime. It was Winifred Atwell’s
piano. Julie Rogers was also a friend of my dad, but she didn’t
get on very well with Petula Clark and I don’t remember ever
seeing them together or even in the same room at the same time. My
nan knew Marianne Faithfull’s mum. Some of what you read is true.
Helen Shapiro was a girl I knew at school but she was a few years
older than me and she thought she was a goddess. We used to glare
at each other from a distance. We had a fight once because of
Anita Harris. I wanted it to be because of Billie Davis but it
wasn’t. When I got a Saturday job in the greengrocer’s on School
Road Clodagh Rodgers was working part-time at the petrol station
opposite. We used to smile at each other across the traffic. We
did that for about three months then I asked her out and she said
she was engaged to a bloke who went to Oxford. The only time I’d
ever been to Oxford was on a charity walk. She reminded me of
Twinkle, who used to let me call her Lynn when we played together
on our bikes in Coventry Road. When what was left of The Vernons
Girls took over being my mum in 1969 I figured it was time for me
to leave home in search of The Tiller Girls. I thought I’d dreamed
them, but I was determined to find out the truth.


If this wasn't the autobiography you were expecting, I'm sorry. I wrote this poem (which is in prose, sort of) a couple of years ago.

You don't want to read my real autobiography I hope, because I really have no desire to write it. But there's a couple of things you might want to know:

I am a poet, and my poetry and criticism has been published all over the place for more than 40 years. You can find information on some of my books by going, unsurprisingly, to the 'Books' section of this site.

In those almost 40 years I have read at places including the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, The Morden Tower, and St. Mark’s in New York City. I’ve also run so many writing workshops and classes my head spins when I think about it.

What’s more, for a long time I edited the poetry magazine joe soap's canoe. There are people out there in poetry world who think this was a great magazine, and I’m not going to be the one to contradict them.

From 2005 until January 2018 I taught at a university in Zhuhai, China, except for a year (2007/8) when I was back in England as the Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Nottingham Trent University.

I am now back in the UK and living in Nottingham.