What a delight our May Speakeasy was. We simply couldn’t have asked for a better set of authors, or a more varied, enthralling selection of readings.
First up was Jo Bloom, reading from her wonderful debut, RIDLEY ROAD, which you can and should buy here. She was followed by Colin MacIntyre, also reading from his debut, the brilliant THE LETTERS OF IVOR PUNCH. Go and buy that here; you really ought to.
At this point we went to the break. But before we did that, we had the pivotal matter of the Story Challenge to sort out. We asked the audience to suggest a theme for our authors to do some off-the-cuff writing on. After a bit of bullying from Ian, and some liberal interpretation of a couple of suggestions, we had our options: poltergeists; a Wham! reunion; Ed Miliband wondering why he got married (with thanks to Colin’s Uncle Eric, who essentially made the evening).
That thing happened again. The thing where we have some clear choices, and in the process of orchestrating that choice, Ian manages to change it at the eleventh hour.
So our theme this month ended up as: Why do sailors dream of Ed Miliband?
A timely and timeless question, we’re sure you’ll agree.
We went off in our teams and wrote two pretty excellent pieces of fiction about just that. But before it was time to reveal those, there was the second half to sit back and enjoy.
Up first was Claire Fuller, reading two extracts from her beautiful first novel, OUR ENDLESS NUMBERED DAYS. Go on, treat yourself: right here. And closing the show was our (squeal!) Pulitzer-prize winning guest from the States, Robert Olen Butler, who basically bowled us all over with a reading from his new novel, THE STAR OF ISTANBUL. Do the smart thing, pick it up here.
And if all that wasn’t enough, there was just time for Ian and Nicci to read the masterpieces their teams had created under Challenge conditions. These efforts will be shared with you now. Prepare to be dazzled.
TEAM CLOKE (Cloke, Bloom, MacIntyre)
I’m talking to you now from the bottom of the ocean. I’m trying to keep hold of this last soggy picture of Emperor Ed. As I look down, I see a sturgeon has got hold of my balls.
I’m struggling to remember how I got here. Last Christmas, I was drinking Prosecco in my brand-new second galley, which I had built after I heard about Ed’s second kitchen. I was careless with my whispers; I invited too many people to see it. Too many people ordered salmon, and the ship – my pride and joy, ‘The Miliband The Younger’ – went down.
But I find I’m happy here; it suits me. I dress only in seaweed and red roses; it’s Freedom, a Hebridean Club Tropicana. Just me and my picture of Ed, sleeping with the fishes.
TEAM ELLARD (Ellard, Fuller, Olen Butler)
‘You’re down on Spring Break are you, sweetie? I noticed you looking at my long, grey beard. You know what they say about men with long grey beards… they have looooong grey dreams. You wanna hear my dream? I had this dream 15,000 times, you know that? But let me tell you about the first time. You look cute when you yawn.
‘It was May 8th, 2015 – before you were born, I’ll bet. We were bound for Miami on an old steamer named ‘The Maker’s Mark’, when I met a man called Ed. Ed Miliband was his name.
‘ “I’m headed for Tallahassee,” he said, taking a bite of his bacon sandwich. “There’s an antebellum plantation house there, haunted by a poltergeist that plays Wham! records in the middle of the night. I would literally rather be there than Britain right now.”
“Oh right,” I said.
‘Just then, the wind dropped. I heard a “Fuck” from the Captain. “Doldrums!” he cried. “Fuck!”
‘That night, I dreamt of Ed Miliband. He had won. And Britain was thus:
‘The railways were nationalised; minimum wage was £25 an hour; NHS waiting lists fell to 90 seconds; Michael Gove’s GCSEs were revoked; the Queen took a job at Tesco’s – on just £25 an hour –
‘Doesn’t that sound great?’
‘Umm,’ said the undeveloped co-ed character in the bar. ‘What’s an Ed Miliband?’
We put it to a vote. It was a narrow majority, but a narrow one’s all you need, guys – Team Cloke won.
Which takes the score to 11-9, with everything to play for.
And play for it we will, at our next show on June 9th. See you there?