An English Boy in New York

BOOK: An English Boy in New York
12.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Tuesday 16

Haven't been able to write for a while. After the excitement of the Knitting Championships, I've been spending the last few weeks trying to catch up with my studies. I've also had a number of orders for the Hoopie off the internet and been spending a lot of time with my girlfriend, Megan. Or trying to. In fact, we're currently struggling with some serious scheduling issues. A week ago I forced her to spend an hour or so sitting opposite me so that we could coordinate our movements.

‘Right, let's get our diaries out,' I said.

Megan looked blank. ‘Who has a diary these days?' she said. ‘I just use my phone for that kind of thing.'

‘But what if your phone runs out of battery?' I asked, shaking my head in disapproval.

‘I'll charge it.'

‘What if Lloyd Manning throws it in Hampton reservoir?'

‘He only does that to
phone,' she pointed out.

Eventually we managed to sort out some dates to see each other. After some heavy compromise on my part, mind. I'll tell you what, Megan's a tough negotiator. It's like the Americans and the Iranians discussing the decommissioning of chemical weapons.

And being of the female species, she reserves the right to completely ignore all arrangements and just do what the hell she likes. As I found out a couple of days later.

‘I thought we were seeing each other tomorrow?' I said as she kissed me on the cheek.

‘I wanted to see you today,' she replied, smiling sweetly. ‘Don't you want to see me?'

‘It's not that,' I said. ‘I like seeing you very much. Just  …  I prefer having an arrangement in place first.'

She gives me a look at that point and I have to pretend like I'm joking. But I am deadly serious. Nothing is more unsettling to me than spontaneity.

Plus, it is playing havoc with my knitting. How am I supposed to fill my Hoopie orders when young girls are floating around my room looking pretty and opening drawers and finding magazines and accidentally breaking bits off the ziggurat?

So. It's a work in progress. The relationship, I mean. The ziggurat's finished.

In other news, Mum's in trouble with the Magic Circle. They sent her a stern letter which I said they should have sent by owl if they're serious about the whole magic thing. She's under investigation for allegedly revealing details of a magic trick on Twitter. They reprinted the offending tweet.

@dcopperfield Thanks for wonderful new show last night. Amazing spectacle all thanks to mirror.

Which, admittedly, reads like she's suggesting that @dcopperfield was using a mirror to trick people rather than using actual magic. In reality Mum just forgot to type an @. She meant to write
. all thanks to @mirror
because she won the tickets through a competition in the
Daily Mirror
. Clear misunderstanding but it's started a bit of a Twitter storm, at least within the stage magician community.

Dad, meanwhile, is bereft at Frank Lampard's retirement from Chelsea.

‘He's still in the England squad,' I pointed out.

‘He never scores for England,' Dad said miserably.

I resisted stating the obvious, because ever since since I came out as a knitter, Dad's been making a real effort to be more supportive and embrace me as his only son. This means bonding activities such as marathon DVD evenings. My fault really, I made the mistake of telling Dad I'd hadn't completely hated watching
Band of Brothers
with him. So now he's bought the first two series of
, which quite honestly might as well be the same three episodes playing over and over again as far as I'm concerned. I tend to switch off after the fifteen-minute opening credits with extended trumpet solo.

Spies, soldiers and trumpet music leave me cold. Surprisingly, I'd rather watch programmes about gangsters with saxophones. How's that for subverting the male knitter stereotype? But Dad's just not interested. It's hard to find common ground with a man who didn't like
The Sopranos

Wednesday 17

Just had the most boring discussion about the family holiday this year. But since neither I nor my sister Molly have any say whatsoever in what we do or where we go, I don't see why my parents even bother pretending to ‘discuss' it with us.

The upshot of this ‘discussion' is that we can't afford a proper holiday, so we're going hiking in Snowdonia next week with Dad's friends from the Camper Van Society. Yep. That's pretty much as dire as it sounds. I don't mind group holidays when we go camping in the summer, with Mum's friends. They're all lovely and put up bunting and know how to cook and the dads are funny and patient and Mum's friend Gina's daughter Pippa is rather pretty and wears tiny bikinis.

But we're not going camping with Mum's friends in July, we're hiking with Dad's friends in April. Dad's friends smoke cigars and drink cheap Pilsner lager and his friend Pete, who works for Royal Mail, is way too shouty and tells dodgy Islamophobic jokes. But the worst thing is that they all have sons around my age who do nothing but play aggressive games of football around the campsite and knock down other people's washing lines. Not my style, but I can hardly just sit in the van and knit. Can I?

Things could be better round here.


Things are looking up.

A huge parcel arrived today from KnitFair USA, which is only the biggest and best knitting fair on the PLANET. And with it, a letter from someone named Brandi.

Dear Ben,

Congratulations on winning the English Knitting Competition. We're so excited to be welcoming you to this year's KnitFair USA.

My name is Brandi DeLacourt and I am a PR executive for the Knitting Guild Association of America. We're handling the PR for this year's KnitFair USA and I'm thrilled that you'll be one of my clients. There's already a lot of interest in you because it's quite unusual for young men to be involved in knitting. I've seen the articles in the UK press about your amazing success. If it's OK with you, I'll be arranging some interviews with interested media here in NYC. Please sign the release form and send it back if you're happy about doing a few interviews and events.

Please find enclosed two Executive Club class tickets to New York. You'll be landing at JFK Airport. JFK are the initials of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, one of our famous presidents from history. I've arranged hotel accommodation for you for a week. Please email to let me know whether you want a twin, double or two singles for you and your companion. The fair itself runs from Friday 17
May to Sun 19
May so you and your friend have a few days beforehand for sightseeing and hopefully some interviews.

New York can be an intimidating place for visitors but don't worry, I will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. I've enclosed a programme guide for the fair so you can plan which demonstrations, lectures, forums and so on you'd like to attend. We're proud to be unveiling the new KnitMaster 3000 knitting machine on the 19
so that demonstration should definitely be in your schedule!

Please find enclosed tickets for you and your companion as well as four extra tickets you can give away on your blog.

I'm really looking forward to meeting you, Ben. Please do email me at the address below if you have any questions.


Brandi DeLacourt

Knitting Guild Association of America


1276 5

New York, NY

[email protected]

Oh no. What a
! I won't be able to go hiking with Dad's friends, after all! No charred sausages. No stand-up rows between Mum and Pete, the Islamophobic postman. No bruised shins from pretending to enjoy playing football. No having to hide knitting in my sleeping bag.

Instead, I'll have to fly Executive Club class to New York with Megan Hooper, be forced to shop for wool in Bloomingdale's, be press-ganged into romantic walks through Central Park, and get force-fed Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and veal Parmesan. What a terrible, terrible blow.


‘But we've had this trip booked for months!' Dad said, looking so desolate I nearly felt bad.

‘It's SUCH terrible timing,' I agreed, shaking my head sadly.

‘I'm really pleased for you,' Mum said. ‘You'll have a great time. I'm a bit gutted you're going to leave me to face Islamophobic Pete on my own  … '

‘Shouty Pete, you mean,' Dad said. ‘He's not Islamophobic. Not since the post office made him go on that awareness course.'

‘Whatever,' Mum said. ‘Frankly, I'm not sure I want to go hiking at all now. I was relying on Ben as my one source of intelligent company.'

‘Thanks very much,' said Dad.

‘Are you taking Megan with you?' Mum went on, regardless.

I nodded. ‘That's the idea.'

She raised an eyebrow.

‘You two haven't been  …  alone together  …  much,' she said slowly.

‘We've been alone together,' I said.

‘Not  … 
alone, is what I mean,' she said. ‘Have you?'

Oh. My. God.

‘We've been alone together plenty, thank you very much,' I said quickly. ‘I haven't had any complaints about our alone-time frequency. Or length.'

‘OK. But you've never  …  flown all the way across the Atlantic with a girl before, have you?'


‘I thought not,' she said, nodding.

‘Hang on,' I said. ‘What do you mean?'

‘I just want you to know, that if you have any questions about anything  …  in that area, then you can come to me any time.'

I was so horrified I forgot how to speak. I just shook my head vigorously.

‘Or you could talk to your father, if you'd be more comfortable doing that?'

‘No,' I said, finding a small voice. ‘I don't think I would. I'll handle it on my own. Thanks.'

‘Pleased to hear it,' she said. ‘Just, take things easy, won't you? It takes a while to get the hang of  …  long-haul flights.'

I smiled weakly and fled. She is so embarrassing.

Friday 19


I just got off the phone with Joz. The electricity in his house keeps going off for no reason, which means he keeps missing the end of programmes. He missed the last ten minutes of the new series of
last night which he knows I am obliged to watch with Dad. Joz had phoned to see if I could fill him in. I don't think I was much help. I knitted through the last episode and may have missed some crucial plot twists. Also, I can never remember the names of the characters, or the names of the actors for that matter, just the films they used to be in.

‘So the guy from
The Princess Bride
 … ' I began.


‘The guy with the beard.'


‘Yeah, I think so. Anyway, he's talking to the girl from
Romeo and Juliet

‘What? Who?'

‘You know. Her from
My So-Called Life
. Except now she's really old.'

‘You mean Carrie?'

‘Yeah. That's it, Carrie. So she's talking to the guy from
The Princess Bride
, when the bloke from
Band of Brothers
comes in.'


‘You know, Major Thingie, the ginger bloke.'


‘Is that his name? Except now he's bald. The guy who was blown up by an IUD.'

‘You mean an IED?'

‘Is there a difference?' I asked impatiently.

‘One's a bomb,' he said. ‘And the other is a contraceptive device.'

‘Sorry, I get confused by military terms. And contraceptive terms, for that matter.'

‘Quite an important difference though.'


‘Oh, look, forget it,' he said. ‘I'll just look it up online.'

‘But what if the power goes off again?'

‘Dammit!' he said.

‘Maybe you should get an electrician around,' I suggested.

‘Southerly Electricity have been around three times but can't find anything wrong,' he said. ‘I reckon they think we're making it up.'

‘Why would you make up something like that?'

‘I know! Anyway, whenever they come around everything's working fine. But this morning it went off again and we couldn't make toast and the power shower wouldn't work, and Dad couldn't iron his shirt. We've got an electric loo upstairs and that wouldn't flush.'

‘What about keeping a log?' I said.

‘It was the log I needed to flush, he replied. ‘Why would I want to keep it?'

‘I mean keep a diary, you knobber, detailing what times it goes off. Then you can compare it to your electricity usage and prove there's a problem.'

‘You're a genius, Ben,' he said.

‘It's been said before,' I admitted.

Saturday 20


So I prepared it all so carefully. I wore a fedora and Dad's braces over a white singlet. I stuck a toothpick in my mouth and waited for Megan to arrive.

‘Hey, doll,' I said when she finally turned up, late. She was looking hot in her green Waitrose uniform. I offered her an opened pack of Oreos.

‘Hello,' she replied, eyeing me and the Oreos suspiciously.

‘You and me, doll,' I said. ‘Walking by the Hudson. Taking in a Broadway show. Drinking a highball at Joe's Bar, riding the B train home afterwards, handing a greenback to a kindly bum. How about it?'

‘What on earth are you talking about?' she asked, sitting down at the kitchen table. She looked a bit dark under the eyes.

I slapped the tickets down on the table. ‘We're going to New York, baby. That's what I'm talking about.'

Megan opened the ticket and stared at it. She didn't look quite as excited as I'd expected.

‘Executive Club class,' I pointed out. ‘Extra leg room. Real metal cutlery. Attentive flight attendants.'

‘Wow, Ben,' she said. ‘This is amazing.'

‘And of course there's free entry to the KnitFair for all three days,' I pointed out eagerly.

‘Mmmm,' she said. ‘Brilliant.'

‘You don't sound as enthusiastic as I'd hoped,' I said.

She paused for a moment.

‘It's just that things are tough at the moment. At home,' she said. ‘Gran's really not well and Mum needs me  … '

‘It's only a week,' I said gently. ‘Your mum would understand that, wouldn't she?'

Megan looked up at me and forced a smile. ‘It's not that simple, but thank you for asking me, Ben. It's amazingly generous.'

‘But  … '

She shrugged. ‘I'm not sure I'd be very good company anyway. I'd be worrying about Gran, and Mum.'

My heart sank. Was she saying no? How could she say no to this?

‘Look, don't say no just now,' I said quickly. ‘See how things go over the next few days. Talk to your mum about it. Think things over. Please?'

I must have sounded a bit desperate, because she nodded and said she'd think about it. I've felt a bit flat since then. I'm torn between sympathising with Megan about her gran, but at the same time I can't help wondering if she's using this as an excuse. Maybe she just doesn't want to go away with me?

BOOK: An English Boy in New York
12.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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