Sunday 3rd July 2016
I remember having a drink with Caroline at a poetry caberet event organised by a group called 'Stand & Deliver' at the Tameside Theatre, Ashton under Lyne 30 years ago. I fancied her, but was too painfully shy even to flirt, never mind read my silly poetry & that I seem to remember is what we talked about, can't remember much, but she was shy too, but hadn't let shyness stop her. I do remember she was very funny and lovely and totally genuine.
She wasn't a household name in those days, it was long before her Mrs Merton tv shows, she was on the comedy circuit around Manchester. I seem to remember I recognised her, so maybe she'd done a few spots on tv, but maybe not. I can't remember how we got talking.
In the end despite encouragement I didn't get up to read my poems but over the years I've wished more that I'd flirted with her because I had a big crush on her. Oh Regrets I've had a few! Now I don't kid myself for a minute that if I'd flirted with her she'd have reciprocated, I can't remember if she was with anyone at this time. I think she was just being her naturally friendly, lovely, genuine self.
Of course in my Billy Liar dreamworld we would have definitely gone out together and been good for each other and just lived and loved and laughed!
It's hard for me to remember specific details of this as it is to revisit my 1980's self, I look back at my poems from them, most of them quite awful, unrequited love nonsense & maybe even now my feelings now are a throwback to that, but that time has stayed with me ever since and over the years I've enjoyed regaling people with name dropping anecdotes of those 80's Manc days, where for a brief time I was rubbing shoulders with the likes of Steve Coogan and of course I've embellished them a bit.
I saw her only intermittently over a period of about 6 months in 1986, as she was part of a circle of people on that poetry cabaret circuit in Manc which I hung out with, having first designed posters for some of them when I was working on a government scheme as a graphic artist at Tameside College. Strangely I can't remember seeing her perform live, but she must have been at those gigs to perform on occasion, or maybe she was just there for the crack, I only vaguely remember subsequent conversations where much to my excitement, she sought my shy, yet desiring 20's self out and wanted to know how I was getting on on my government scheme at the college!
Never saw her again when the scheme finished and I lost contact with all that circle (more regrets).
But over the years her face has of course became so familiar on television, but I still just about see past that, as if light down the end of a tunnel, to this very pretty Irish looking girl then, warmly encouraging me to get up and read my poems. I don't even remember showing them to her to see if she thought they were actually worth getting up to perform, but that didn't seem to matter!
I never did get up to perform my poems, (well apart from that time when I inexplicably rattled one off when auditioning for Granada Studios tour a few years later, but we won't talk about that!) But it was a long approach road to the performance motorway that I sought to join that night, a performance motorway which in the last 20 years I've been chugging along and weaving like the can can girl dreaming weaver bird motorist of a 1970s public information film!
Over the years I've had lots and lots of crushes, (and by the way I do think the word crush to be much more a potent description of desire than just plain fancy) and certainly the reason I've remembered Caroline is because she became famous and yes I'm a soppy old Hector anyway, but still her warmth, her loveliness, her generosity of spirit, coupled with being as funny as fuck, has meant that unlike others that crush has never and will never die.
I can't bear to read stories that she was apparently alone when she died, that she just didn't want to make a fuss by telling people she was very ill. I can't believe she, the same age as I is not around, she is just still is, it just cannot be. She's a total genius in everything she does.
footnote: 30 years on she's inspired me to imagine that early meeting with her in a short poem. (below)
It's probably better that I never have the opportunity to get up and perform it, as I'd just fucking cry like a baby and that wouldn't do me confidence any good.