A surge of acid seared the back of Honey’s throat. Although she sneaked off to a self-defence class on a Thursday, that wasn’t nearly as painful as this unexpected circuit around Beckhill Estate. She had been going between a jog and a sprint for – she checked her phone: 7.35 am. Forty-five minutes? Is that all? She thought, and she took a right down the street before her own. The sun was beginning to rise, and Honey didn’t know what she would find outside her house. She felt weak and (to her great surprise) hungry.
She took another right into an alley between two rows of houses. Locking herself in, she pulled an iron gate behind her and knotted a loose chain around the frame. There were five houses on each side of the narrow alley-path, each with a back yard, bordered by brick walls, and wooden gates to enter. At the bottom of the path, a thorny bush-covered wall completed the box which penned her in.
Honey was panting, but with the chance to catch her breath, she was hesitating. Even in a normal situation, a whiff of meat could make her tummy lurch, but in this enclosed alley space, the stench was overpowering. She was wearing a denim jacket and a pencil skirt that had ridden up to her thigh. Curls of thick black hair were stuck across her face with sweat and – she used her forearm to wipe her head – blood. She bent over, resting her hands on her knees and grimacing as she looked down. Her boyfriend’s throat had spurted a fat stream of shiny red when it was torn open in front of her. In his struggle to throw off his attacker, the sash of blood had painted her from the left side of her face to her right side of her hip, and she could feel it turning crispy.
Her head jerked up as the first body thumped against the iron gate and the chain jangled, then three or four more followed. She cried out. The chain she’d wrapped around the gate rattled loudly with every thrust and the chimes echoed off the alley walls. The arms of stained black and bloody bodies thrashed through the gaps in the gate and their low, gritty groans grew louder as they failed to get any closer. As the chain was being worked loose, she made her way down the alley, frantically pulling down gate handles with one hand, while reaching out for the next, but they were all bolted from the inside. Finally, she pushed on the last gate and it gave way slightly, but it was blocked by something on the other side.
“Are you kidding me?!” She screamed. Before she could charge into it, the chain fell to the floor, and the iron gate slammed against the brick wall. She looked up to see the grey, mottle-skinned bodies charging though. They weren’t as slow as the movies made out, but they were selfishly voracious, and it made them claw at each other as they rushed forward, slowing their advance.
“Not today,” she growled, and she smashed her shoulder into the stiff gate. It gave just enough to squeeze through and she squealed as she slid into the gap.
Honey locked the deadbolt on the inside of gate when she made it through. Thumps and groans came from the other side as her rabid followers caught up to her, but the gate held fast.
Looking down at the dead man beside her, she saw why it had been so hard to open the gate. He had been seated before Honey barged in, but now he was slumped over to the side. His left arm was missing, and its fleshy stump poked upwards. She paused and stared at him for the moment, wondering what wasn’t right about him. Her eyes focused on the stump where his arm had been; it was black and oily like the wounds on the others. Quickly scanning the garden, she saw a shovel leaning against the shed a few paces away. Without hesitating, she darted forwards to grab it and turned back. She raised it over her head with the blade edge-forwards like an axe just as the dead man sat up. His eyes opened, revealing watery milk-white pools. He turned his opening mouth toward Honey, but she was already bringing the shovel down as hard as she could. It wedged into his skull with a satisfying crack and the shock reverberated through her arms.
“Ughhh,” she shook.
She tugged on the shovel; satisfied it was wedged in his brain, she let go of the handle, and the dead man slumped back into the position Honey had found him in. She shuddered again before spinning on her heel and marching toward the house.
When Millie found the first open door in the corridor, she threw herself through it. All the others she had tried were locked, and she felt like she had been running for hours. The relief of finding sanctuary made her legs to wobble like jelly being dropped onto a plate as she went through the door, and she fell against the wall inside. The last images of her friends, Alison and Lilah, gnawed at the back of her mind. She let her head fall into her hands while she slid down the wall into a crouched position with her knees trembling. She sobbed for some time, her teeth chattering as she squeezed her eyes open and closed, hoping she would be able to force the images out.
Millie couldn’t be sure if she had heard something, or if there had been a movement in her peripheral vision. Her head snapped up as her body tensed and her hair stood on end. She shook her head a little and wiped tears from her face before shifting into a squat, facing the slightly open door ahead of her. She was trying to focus her hearing on any sound while restraining herself from taking deep, loud breaths.
Millie’s neck tensed a little more as she heard the single swish of a wet mop sliding across the floor. Confused by the noise, she frowned and strained a little harder to hear it again. The room she was in was big but empty, except for a table in the middle and two chairs either side. There were two doors: the one she was staring at, slightly ajar; and another behind her, on the same wall as a huge mirrored window. A small video camera poked out above the open door with a silent red light blinking beneath it. She had briefly wondered if anyone was watching her, as she crouched in a feral hunch beneath the mirror.
The wet swish sound came again, and the door twitched slightly. Millie took a sharp breath in as a bloodied hand slapped down on the hard tile floor. Another hand came down, and Lilah’s contorted face and milky-white eyes were dragged into view.
For the third night in a row, Morgan woke up in his flat with his heart pounding and his skin slick with sweat. A ripple of goosebumps ran through him as he threw off the covers and took his first waking breath. He groaned as he rubbed his chest and read the bedside clock: 03:32. It was the weekend, but it was the first morning of his new job at Meldotech. Deciding he didn’t want to fight his restless thoughts and the dull hum of machinery in the laundrette below, he let out another exasperated groan, kicked his legs and rolled out of bed. He staggered, and before he found the switch for a table lamp on the floor, he banged his knee on the armchair next to his bed and cried out in pain.
The year before, Morgan had moved two hundred miles away from London (and his parents) to Manchester. He remembered crying as he drove off in the second-hand MINI he’d been saving for. The shrinking rear-view image of his little sister sobbing into the shoulder of his mother still made his guts twist with guilt. He felt bad for leaving Amy alone with his mum and dad but they treated her so different to him. On a rare occasion that Morgan was in the same room as his parents, he announced his plan to them:
“Mum. Dad. I’m going to live in Manchester. I got my acceptance letter last week, and I start university there in September doing computer science.” His father looked over the newspaper he was reading and made eye contact long enough to nod in approval, before looking back to the page. “I even have a flat.”
“Is that right?” His mother asked, and she stood up and turned to the counter to put on the kettle. “So, when do you leave?” She pressed, and he felt his throat tighten.
“In a few weeks,” Morgan held back tears with a gulp, “I just need you to sign a form for the tuition fees. I’ve taken care of living costs.”
“That won’t be a problem Mo-Mo. Just leave the papers on your Father’s desk and he will make the arrangements,” his mother said with her back to him. Morgan’s dad nodded again, this time without looking up. His mother turned toward the kitchen sink and pretended to clean the already immaculate worktops. As long as he didnt cost them their time, they took no interest him, in the job he made for himself creating and running social media accounts for small business owners, or that his weekly allowance from them remained untouched in his Santander Premier account. Even after buying his car, he was able to cover rent for the first few months he lived in Manchester. It was now the end of January the following year, and although he was doing alright financially, he wanted to get started on a career. The job he was starting at Meldotech came after a grateful bakery-owner had a successful Christmas because of his work. The baker had passed his contact details onto his son who already worked there, and he was offered the job with only a phone-interview.
Morgan went to the toilet, washed his hands and his face, and then finally he brushed his teeth. It was a routine he only missed when he was sick or hungover. He limped over to the kitchen counter directly opposite the bathroom door, flicked his kettle on and looked around at his shoebox flat. His bedroom at his parent’s house had been bigger. The apartment had come furnished with a small fridge, a gas hob, a new single bed, an armchair, a bookshelf with a missing shelf, a fold-down kitchen table, a single kitchen chair, a mug that said “get ’em before they get you”, a well soiled frying-pan, two forks and a bowl. There were only two rooms: the bathroom and bedroom-kitchen. In his MINI he had clothes, toiletries, two towels, a duvet and sheets, a small flat-pack desk, a lamp, a clothes-horse, a DAB radio, a laptop and stationery. He unpacked it all on his first night. With only one small window above the kitchen sink, the flat was dark and dingy but aside from the frying-pan, the whole place was immaculately clean, and it was his. As he limped over to the armchair with a coffee, he felt the same swell of pride as when he unpacked five months ago. He smirked at the idea of his parents, seeing where he lived. They would lose it, he thought. He was still smiling when he turned on BBC Radio 2 and started reading his Meldotech welcome pack.
The night was giving way to dawn when Morgan heard the first siren. It startled him from a sleepy-doze he’d fallen into. His bedside clock read 07:23. His knee had stiffened from the bang on the armchair, and he faltered as he got up, kicking over his empty coffee cup with his cold, bare toes. After making it over to the kitchen window in a kind of limping-hop, he hovered over the sink and looked down into the street. The street lamps were already switching off, and the sun was causing a golden haze to border the silhouette of small, squished together shops and flats across from his own. It wasn’t the worst view, he thought as he breathed in another smile.
He heard more sirens and looked down into the street below. Two police cars and a riot van screeched to a stop in a blockade formation facing a part of the street he couldn’t quite see. He dropped into a crouch as an approaching helicopter seemed to stop above his flat and the voice from a megaphone could be heard. “Stay in your homes. Do not open your windows or doors. This is a-”, the booming voice cut off, and a hot glow, followed by a rumble and a roar, came from the direction police were facing.
Joe opened his eyes and closed them immediately when he woke up under a bright orange light. He blinked and squinted until the leaves from the branches above him came into focus, and he realised it was nighttime. The light was coming from a lamppost between two Japanese cherry trees. There was a time he would have been terrified to wake up on a damp bench, outside, in the darkest hour of the night, but instead, he just felt relief that he was awake at all.
This happens to be a familiar place though; he was in Queens Gardens in the city centre of Hull. The bench he was laying on faced one of two ponds clotted with reeds. The area of land that made up the rest of the gardens included large neatly cut patches of grass at the other side of the ponds. Trees dotted the sides of a path that ran down the middle and his old college overlooked the furthest end of the gardens. From the back of his mind, an effervescence of giggles and laughter echoed. He had dropped out of his maths and physics A-Levels six or seven years ago, but he was happy to think about those times when he would play football on the grass under the warm sun with his friends.
The last of the echoes scattered when Joe sat up shaking with cold tremors. He squeezed his eyes closed as nausea rushed through him. He clutched his knees to his chest and rocked back and forth until the shudders slowed to steady tremble. Joe looked from left to right with stinging eyes and then back to the floor. He was trying to remember what happened before he woke up on the bench. In his mind’s eye, he thumbed through a catalogue of images, each one fading as fast as he saw it; he couldn’t tell what was a dream and what was a memory. As the procession continued, sickness surged to the back of his throat. He swallowed, stuffing the vomit back down. His head felt too heavy for his neck, and after some time, he realised he was laid back down on the bench.
He was staring out between the reeds that lined the pond, wondering where the ducks were; he could hear their quacks but he couldn’t see them. The memory of when he accidentally hit one of the ducks with his football formed behind his eyes. He remembered his friends laughing and shouting “Saaaave!!” when it happened, but Joe was wincing and fighting back tears as he watched the bird try to extend its wing like it was fighting to find the sleeve in a shirt. He brushed off the banter with his friends and made a subtle effort to move them away from the ponds. He missed a class that afternoon to call the local council and report the injured animal.
Like the rest of the images in his memory-catalogue, the thought faded fast, and he found himself thinking of the day his friend, Sam, fell into the same pond he was staring at. The sky had been a fiery orange blaze as the sun was setting during summer the year before. In his minds-eye, he was in the elevated part of another Spice high, walking in animated steps through the gardens with Sam, Donna and Terry. An imaginary puppet-master worked the strings above them, yanking on their arms and legs as they made their way along the uneven path. Joe saw the moment Sam tripped over a crooked paving stone and whimsically flailed through the air in slow-motion. Nobody had seen Sam smack his head on the ground as he fell into the pond. Joe had rolled around in hysterics with Donna and Terry, and it was a few minutes before he even noticed that Sam was face down in the water, not moving. It was as he realised that Sam wasn’t laughing among them, that has jumped into the pond without hesitation. The cold memory of the pond water seeping through his tracksuit gave him another wave of shakes as he lay on the bench. Instead of the warm echoes of his teenage life, he could hear Donna’s shrill screams at the sight of Sam’s blood oozing into the murky pond water, and Terry’s gummy voice saying they should run for it. They had left Joe with Sam next to the pond, blood pooling around the knees of his tracksuit.
He snapped out of it as he felt the drool, which had gathered at the corner of his mouth, leak out. Joe sat up again but this time he went all the way to his feet, his head feeling dizzy with the sudden action. He didn’t move at first, he couldn’t. The sky was turning from a deep black to a dark blue. Too late to get a bed anywhere, he thought. He swayed a little as he tried to plan what he needed to do, remember where he had been, and where he had to go. There was something urgent tingling at the back of his mind. He balanced himself by taking a wider stance and a deep breath. He stood in that same spot for another few minutes; legs apart, mind spinning, heart whipping the inside of his chest.
He rocked back and forth a final time before he managed to put one foot forward, and the other followed. With each step, he remembered more and more of what he had been doing before he passed out, and where he had intended to go.
Ted stepped up to the desk of his new job advisor and frowned when she extended her hand, palm up, in a gesture for him to take a seat. His jaw tensed when she didn’t look up, check his name or say hello. As he placed his binder on her desk and himself into a plastic chair, someone brushed close by leaving the smell of beer and sweat around him. He scrunched his nose and clenched his fist. He had showered and shaved before he came out, but the fetid air made him feel like he needed to get another. He felt severely overdressed the minute he walked in; Hugo Boss jeans and an Armani shirt did not feel right in the jobcentre.
A square table separated Ted from the woman in front of him. Two and a half grey partitions surrounded her; a full one either side of the desk, and a half at the back, leaving a gap for a doorway. Behind her swivel chair, on a three-drawer filing cabinet, cornered into the half partition, were three stacked letter trays. On those, was a bigger stack of papers crisscrossed this way and that. She kept lifting the top few sheets on the stack, turning around with a huff and shuffling through the sheets on her desk; she would pick them up, look under them and put them down and then turn back toward the stack on the cabinet. Every time she turned back toward her desk, her hip would hit the back of her swivel chair and knock the filing cabinet, causing the paper pile behind her to sway. Ted snapped his mouth shut when, by the third time she did it, he noticed realised he was staring intently at the paper Jenga with his mouth open and his breath bated.
The woman’s glasses were perched on frizzy, pale ginger hair, and she wore a dark green wool suit that hung from her body in the same way her skin seemed to hang over her bones. She had one hand over on her brow as she searched the desk with the other. He noticed there were big sallow circles around her eyes, and at first glance, he thought she was healing from two black eyes before realising it was the natural tone of her skin. The sharp angles of her cheekbones cast shadows down her cheek, and every time her head lifted enough to catch the light, he half expected to see the outline of her teeth through her skin.
After casting back and forth with her head down, huffing and puffing for whatever it was she was looking for, her glasses eventually slid forward and dropped to her nose. She had made some noise which resembled a ‘hurrah’ when, as she readjusted her focus, she saw Ted’s CV was in front of her, on the desk. Ted was already slumped in his chair, but he sank into it a bit further, bringing his hand to his head as he shook it in disbelief. Finally, she sat down without looking up. Her un-plucked eyebrows poked over the brown rims of thick, scratched glasses like a pointy finger in Ted’s face. He was distracted and turned in his seat when he heard a scuffle over near the entrance.
“But maaate, I (hic) need my dole. (hic) You caan’t do this, maaate.” Slurred a little guy in an oversized puffer coat. Releasing him into the exit area was a mountain of a man in an all-black security guard uniform.
“You cannot drink that in here. Leave.” The security guard’s voice carried around the room, and the whole place fell silent. Everyone except his job advisor, turned toward the scene if they weren’t already looking. The drunk man backed out of the first set of automatic doors onto a disabled ramp.
“A’right, a’right, I don’t want no trouble,” he said, still holding his can of Stella Artois, “I’m going.”
The outer automatic door swished shut and the security guard, who must’ve been a sentry in a past life, returned to his post beside the door with his bulging arms crossed over his puffed-out chest. The sentry’s hair was cut short to his head, and his eyes were dark but far apart. His furrowed eyebrows seemed to cast shadows over the room.
Ted took a moment to look around. The jobcentre was an open-plan design, and the cubicle he was at was the last in a row which lined the frosted windows of one side of the floor. It was early January, and he could tell, even though the frosting, that the sun was setting. Two cubicles down, a woman was having a meeting too. She was about thirty years old, wearing fishnets and pink trainers, a denim skirt and a mucky pink coat. She was gnawing her fingernails while her leg bounced frantically under the table. Ted could hear a man’s voice, but from where he was sitting, he couldn’t see who was talking to her. In the centre of the room was a seating area with three rows of chairs; only one man, who could have been anywhere between forty and sixty, sat in the middle of the row closest to him. His puffy red face was creased with a frown as he studied a piece of paper in his hand – Ted guessed it was his CV. He wore a grey suit with a white shirt and no tie. Ted noticed that one leg of the man’s case was severely crinkled, but the other was pressed neatly and, it made him sorry for him. Scanning the rest of the room, he could see to the left of the sentry that there were job boards and a few electronic touch screens for people to look at job adverts, beside a door with an electronic lock. There was a man at one of the touch screens with his back to the room. Opposite the front door was an information counter and another electronically locked door behind that. Ted had noticed there was a woman sat there when he walked in, but couldn’t see her now.
Ted turned back to the woman in the cubicle. Her bony finger, tipped with chipped-off brown nail varnish, tapped against her pursed brown lips and her chin sat somewhere in her neck as she studied the page. Slowly he began to work himself up. The more he watched her eyebrow twitch and point at him, the more he became angry with her. It’s not like he would be here if he felt like he had a choice. The words were lining upon his tongue – he was going to call her out for being rude, for judging him without knowing him, for pointing her pointy eyebrow at him – when she lifted her head and beamed a smile at him.
“Hi Ted! Can I call you Ted? My boy is called Theodore too – we call him Teddy – not that I would do that to you though, not quite the place.” She did a little chuckle to herself. “Oh where are my manners, I’m Jennifer, I’m your advisor.” She stretched out over the desk, extending her skeletal hand for a shake. Ted, blinked and stuttered as he sat upright to return the handshake.
“Er, y-yeah sure, call me Ted, everyone does.” He blinked as he released the frail lady’s hand and felt a pang of guilt in his gut.
“Ok Ted, let’s get started. I can see you’ve had a few different jobs here” Jennifer paused, to look back at the CV. Oh here we go, Ted thought, here comes the judgem- “which is a great experience for you. Having tried a bunch of things means maybe we can figure out which bits of those roles you liked the most, and find you something you actually like doing. You’re young, the world is your oyster, right?” She did another big smile.
Ted gawped a little. This was not the usual treatment he had when he signed on; this was the first time anyone looked at his CV for more than a glance, the first time anyone called him Ted, the first time he saw had seen anyone in these cubicles even smile.
“Well I’m with a few agencies, but I haven’t picked anything up for a week or two. I want something secure and regular. I want a career, but I don’t really have any qualifications, only work experience. So I’m here in case you could help me with that?” Ted was half telling the truth, he hadn’t worked for an agency for a few weeks (hardly at all in the last year in fact). Instead, he had been working for Benny Tate; a childhood friend turned drug dealer. The money had been good, but he needed a way out and a normal life. Ted sat forward in his chair to take out a list of courses from his binder to go with the jobs he thought he would enjoy, and slid it across to Jennifer. “I want to learn, I have a driving license so I can get around in Hull, or I can even go across the water for work.”
“Oh you came prepared.” She picked up the list and scanned it, then she picked up a highlighter. “This is great. Not to worry Ted, I am sure we’ll find something.” Ted sat with Jennifer for over forty minutes, looking at jobs and courses around Hull. She asked him questions about the things he liked about himself and what he was good at. It was only as their meeting was coming to a close that Ted noticed how empty it the room had become. The middle-aged man who had been sat at the centre of the floor was now sat at in the cubicle the fidgety woman had been sat at. The sentry was closing windows and checking their locks, while an old man in dark green overalls had appeared in the job board section and was mopping the floor.
“It’s been a pleasure to meet you, Ted. I’ll see you in two weeks to see how you’re getting on.” Jennifer leaned over to shake Ted’s hand again.
“You too, Jennifer, thank you.” Ted, picked up his binder of advice leaflets, potential courses and job adverts and headed for the door. It didn’t open automatically when he walked up to it, but by the time Ted was looking for him, the sentry was already marching over, keys in hand, to let him out. Ted checked his watch: 17:26.
“Thanks, mate-“ Ted started. The sentry smiled weakly and turned the key in the door opening the first one. “-bet you get some right states in here, don’t yer?” The sentry made eye contact for a moment, then kept walking. They went into the vestibule, but just as the sentry placed the key in the lock of the second door, he stopped and squinted through the glass. Ted looked too, but between the lighting on the inside and the darkness on the outside, he may as well be have been looking in a mirror. After his meeting with Jennifer, he felt pretty good. The jobcentre was in the middle of town, and it was Friday night. Despite the time of year, on the way to his meeting, he had heard the music and laughter of people inside the pubs he passed. He was dressed up, thinking about having a few drinks and calling – he considered if she was his friend or girlfriend? – Terri, for a few drinks.
“You alright there, mate?” Ted said, startling the sentry. It made Ted jump too, seeing a man so intimidating, jerk. What was he looking at? Ted thought, squinting back out into the darkness. His eyes widened when he saw a black heap in the middle of the road.
“Shit, has someone been hit? We need to get out there, what are you waiting for?” Ted looked around frantically for a button or handle.
“I don’t think he’s been hit. Keep your voice down for a moment.” The sentry continued to stare through the glass.
“Shit man, what can you see that I-” Ted moved closer to the glass, his breath steaming it up as he saw the black mass on the floor was moving up and down. He used the back of his wrist to wipe the foggy patch on the window and that’s when he saw the fishnet legs and pink trainers twitching from beneath the black heap.
We had picked up driving snacks and water in Asda and my co-pilot, Sam, was passing me crisps dipped in sour cream and slices of broccoli quiche as we went. We only stopped once an hour after leaving Hull; I wanted a soya milk Cappuccino from Starbucks – nom.
Only as we were approaching the last few junctions into Coventry, did I lose my head. My leg began to ache again and I could feel the skin around the bite getting tight.
So when a van with three men in the front pulled out on me at the roundabout, I shouted every swearword, held my horn down and made sure they saw me sign them. Naturally when I saw they were shouting something back, I was enraged.
“Ugh – who do they think they are? Shouting back?!?! I’m going back round!! I’m gona drive into them.”
“Oook, calm down, calm down -” everyone soothed.
Trying my hardest to get a grip of myself I said, “Sorry, I’m tired and my leg hurts.”
“Shall I drive the last bit?” Sam asked.
“There’s only 18 minutes left, I’ll be ok” – I could almost hear everyone’s thoughts: You might be ok, but we aren’t, you psycho. “- thanks though.”
We parked up next to an SUV with its windows down and plumes of Ganja smoke pouring out.
A few minor rants later we were at the apartment we had booked.
Scrambling for the door while we tried to find the hidden key, “Let us in”, I joked.
And that’s when the heavens opened, no really- let us in, I thought.
On the way from Hull we had gone from fluffy clouds, rain, big black grey clouds and stunning sunshine. We really had no idea what to expect from the weather tonight. Google had changed its mind every time we looked.
We grabbed every bag and case we could, nobody was going back out in that – and we sweated and scrambled up two flights of stairs.
It was 3pm.
For the next few hours the rain came down like it was trying to cleanse Coventry of some biblical stain. Never mind Spice Girls, it was looking more like Drowned Girls. The doors to the arena opened at 5pm but there was no way we would be there by then and none of us could see sense in getting there so early.
The others were only too excited to go to the concert and all I could think is how much I wanted to put my PJ’s on and rest my leg. Going out in the cold rain was the last thing I wanted to do. I may have been feeling sorry for myself, but I was genuinely gutted.
The day was ruined.
Within half an hour I was pretty much done and ready. It worked out well because I don’t think I could have managed any other Spice. I had the easiest dress up; trainers on my feet and Braids in my hair.
“I need help with my eyelashes”
“I can’t do my make up”
“What can I do with my hair?”
– well lucky for these lot, I was a bit of a Skilled Spice too and after a bit of sticking and a bit of spraying and lots of puffing and blowing and yanking – I had a Baby Spice, a Scary Spice and a Ginger Spice to go with my Sporty Spice.
….It only took 2 and half hours.
Ok, so everyone looked amazing and I couldnt help feeling excited again.
Time for a photo shoot – well, a phone propped up in front of the TV with a timer on – shoot.
We Zig-a-Zig-ahhed, peace signed and pouted for a good 20 minutes before I looked back out the window – ughhh it was so deflating, but Sam and Kate and Alex seemed completely unaffected. All I could think is how gorgeous they all looked and how washed out we would be after the rain got us.
“Did anyone bring a brolly?”…
“No”, everyone chimed.
Sam was counting the Uber down and we knew we would have to make a run for it. As the Uber approached it seemed the rain was getting worse.
We all started to check and pack our little bags.
We touched up our make up.
“Cigs, phones, keys…??”
“Three minutes, ok lets head down”, Sam shouts.
Everyone chugged their final drinks.
“Have you got the tickets?” Kate asks.
“Oooh my God, noooo”, shouts Sam with a giggle, “I almost left them”.
“SAAAMMM!!!” we all shout.
“I’m too excited”, she squeals as she shoves them into her little pink backpack. Thank God for Kate.
We made it down the stairs without falling down them, which was a win considering the heels on everyone but me.
By the time we were in the Uber, the downpour was so horrendous, we could barely see out of the windows.
I was now Grumpy Spice.
I’m just going to stand at the bar, I want to go home, is it over yet, my leg hurts so bad, this is shit… of course I didn’t say any of that, but you could have probably read it on my face.
As we were pulling into the side of the arena, Sam, Kate and Alex were a gaggle of gorgeous squealing Spice Girl fangirls; meanwhile, I was looking for those people selling ponchos on the side of the road because that was where I was going to ask the driver to pull up.
There were two poncho sellers as we got out the car. A woman first then a man almost right behind her.
I saw immediately that they were selling were little more than bin-liners with hoods.
“How much for four?” I call to the lady.
“Three Pounds each!” She says and I can’t help but scoff.
“Give us four for a tenner?” I ask and she shakes her head in disgust and mutters something under her breath.
The guy behind saw me and I shouted the same over to him, he resisted a little, but Sam was on it and already pushing a soggy £10 note into his hand. Defeated, he dished out the hoods.
“Yessss!” Why I felt this was such a win is beyond me, but I was chuffed to bits with my tinted pink bin-liner hooded poncho.
So with my mood lifted, despite the god-awful rain, the only thing really messing me up now, was my leg. The queues were only a few people deep, so we had timed it perfectly… or had we?
We weren’t waiting long to get into the arena and out of the rain but once inside, there was a 15 minutes wait for the toilets, (I wasn’t bothered about that- I was just happy to be out the rain) and the brief moment on the loo was sweet relief to my poor foot while I was sat down.
The next queue was the food and beer queues!! This was easy going to be half an hour. There may have been nobody in the queues outside, but that was because they were all in queues in the arena waiting for beers and burgers.
In all our waiting about in different queues, I noticed all the men. From 16 to 60!! There were loads of them. What were they all doing here? Spice Girls had a following that surpassed thousands of eight year-old school girls and I was shocked to see the range of their audience. But the more the merrier, I guess.
Through the gaps in the stands we could see the rain was stopping. Even in our plastic ponchos and half sodden, we were still the best dressed Spice Girls in the arena and I was chuffed to bits at how awesome everyone looked.
I won’t say what we ended up paying for four pints and a burger, but what really pissed me off, was that it said there was a veggie option on the menu and when our own Ginger Spice, Kate, asked for one, the server said nowhere in the arena does veggie food!! She was a total bitch about it too (we even saw someone with chips a bit later, but it was way too late at that point). So I hope karma gets a hold of her and gives her a severe rash or something for being so rude. Poor Kate settled for a bit of a burger bun, but she was far too excited to care.
Anyyyyyways!!! Finally we were getting somewhere, the rain had become nothing more than a trickley spit. That was enough for Alex and Sam – they tore off their plastic ponchos in an epic effort to show up the real Spice Girls! Alex even looked so good she ended up on Mel B’s Instagram. G’wwwaaan Alex!
As for me and Kate, we were a little more skeptical about the weather and ours stayed on a little longer. I was keeping mine on because as soon as we found a spot away from the crowd down the side of the arena, I planted myself on the floor. I was going to drink my beers and rest my leg.
I didn’t care who was looking (everyone looked). I’d had less than three hours sleep, I’d driven two and half hours and barely sat down since I got out the car, I was cold and wet, my leg hurt and worst of all… I WAS THIRTY TODAY!!!!
Yes, I felt sorry for myself. More than anyone had felt sorry for themselves in the history of feeling sorry for themselves. I was sitting on the floor of that stadium until I had finished this beer and that was that.
It was my birthday and I’ll sulk if I want to.
Ten minutes into my resting-sulk, a ripple of commotion began fluttering through the crowd. It was too early for Spice Girls so it could only be Jess Glynne, the support act; one of Alex’s favourite singers.
I had no choice, something was starting and as patient as Kate and Sam and Alex had been, they needed to be closer to the show – who was I to hold them back.
Maybe it was the beer, maybe it was the atmosphere, (or maybe I really just needed that ten minutes on the floor) but as music started I was lifted (figuratively and physically, because I needed a hand up). Alex, Kate and Sam’s excitement and squeals were infectious.
To me and a lot of others around us, Jess Glynne looked a lot like she was coming out of a ket-hole and she seemed tired and bored. My sister on the other hand, couldn’t have been more thrilled and was having the time of her life, so that was good enough for me.
As the crowds grew louder laughing, singing and dancing, it was as though the Sun wanted in on the action, and glorious orange beams of light began to warm up the arena; it was time to lose the poncho.
… and go for another wee… and get more beer!
Alex and Kate went first, missing the last two songs from Jess Glynne’s crack-set and with only minutes to spare Sam and I decided to brave it.
After fighting our way through the crowds… (well, I smashed people out the way dragging Sam behind me), we finally made up to the stairs, then down to the toilets where 40 other women waited in line. Now if there hadn’t of been attendants checking the male toilet doors, we would have happily hovered over a urinal but not wanting to get thrown out, I restrained myself. So from Stand 23, I dragged my Baby Spice all the way to stand 36 where we waited all of 3 minutes for a loo.
As it turns out, Sam’s feet didn’t hurt until I made her run 13 stands worth of arena…
“Aw no, we still need beers”, Sam reminded me. Feeling a little bad for being the most comfy and agile Spice Girl at this point, (as well as for my Grumpy behaviour) I decided to take one for the team because minutes before I was due to be served, we heard the intro to Spice up your Life.
“Sam, Go Go, get us a little vid of the opening!!!” I shouted, getting butterflies and goosebumps all over. It took everything I had not to start screaming with the overwhelming excitement I felt in that moment.
“No, I can’t it’s your birthday, you go”, Sam argued.
“Get your Baby Spice Ass up them stairs now, I will be up in a minute I am almost being served” I shouted. With the biggest grin and a little squeak she was flying up the stairs!!
Moments later I had five bottles and was running up the stairs after her.
AND THERE THEY WERE!!!!!!
Every good thing I remember about being a little girl was right there!! The Mother Ducking Spice Girls Baby!!!!!!!
It took my breath away!! The real girls were stood right there, singing their hearts out. Trotting up and down the stage like they did in their 20’s. Here they were now, with a whole generation of life and experiences behind them like we all did. They had all grown-up!! But here we were and I felt eight years old again.
Grabbing my hand and with so much hysterical energy that it almost came off, Sam took over dragging us both back to the spot where Alex and Kate were waiting.
When they saw us through the crowds we were finally complete. We were a frenzy of screams and squeals.
We sang, we laughed, we cuddled, we screamed, we cheered, we danced we screamed and cheered some more!
I was not prepared for how overwhelmed and emotional I felt seeing our childhood superstars chatting and laughing and singing right in front of us. I imagine a lot of people might think, Oh Come On, it’s only the Spice Girls for God sake; but to think when I was a little girl, going to concerts just didn’t happen to us, they were just too expensive. So stood there, in that moment, it was like we were at a concert we had been waiting 20 years to go to.
It may have been a helluva day –
But it was nothing compared to the birthday night of my life.
The night was mindblowing from one song to the next! The Spice Girls, from what I have read, have had some rave reviews. I aren’t going to go into much detail about the night with the girls on stage. They were absolutely fantastic and deserved every bit of praise they get and if you didn’t get chance to go then I am sorry you missed out.
That’s how old I was when Spice World, the Spice Girls movie came out in 1997.
I remember knowing every single dance move and every word of every song. I had their official Spice Fever cheap bubble bomber jacket that I wore until there were big tears with fluff coming out.
Let’s just say, like millions of other young Girls, my sister and I thought we were real Mini-Spices!
To many of us Generation Y kids, they were the original Girl Band. Baby, Ginger, Posh, Scary and Sporty – a girl for almost every personality. Good or Bad – thousands of us Loved It.
Imagine my excitement when my Dad’s Girlfriend messaged me and my sister to say she was dragging us both, with her friend, to see Spice Girls on my 30th birthday (courtesy of Dad’s bank account – thank you, Dad).
The date was June 4th. The place was Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
No expense would be spared. This was the concert of our lives. There were going to be t-shirts, dress-ups, playlists and poses!!!
On the lead up to an event we had been waiting for months, we made so many plans for the day, it had to be just right.
So naturally, when it came to the actual day, a LOT of things went wrong.
I had been lucky enough to have a birthday party planned by my friends on the 1st of June. It was Festival themed – with tents, music, a BBQ and acrobatics in the grass. Despite my friend Amber, spraying us all down numerous times with bug repellent, I was bitten by some cheeky little nipper on my foot.
Nevermind, one bite is annoying, but manageable, ay? Hahahaa, nope!
As midnight rolled over and the 3rd of June became the 4th (my birthday), I was on the phone to emergency doctors worried I may need my foot amputating. Of course, I was being dramatic but I did have a bad infection and I spent the early hours of the morning seeing a GP who had to prescribe me with antibiotics (for a brief moment I was devastated until he advised me that alcohol was not a problem with this particular brand – what a win).
Off I went, hobbling home in pain, now dreading the concert I had looked forward to for the most part of the year.
I flopped into bed gobbling down my first Antibiotic, and with a cold flannel on my poorly, bright red and purple throbbing balloon ankle I tried to sleep.
When I woke up a few hours later I threw back my covers in a panic because I could still feel the ache. Although it still looked like I’d been bitten by zombie, my leg was a lot less swollen. Thank God, I thought.
Keep your leg up, everyone said – and ohhh did intend to. There was a two and a half hour journey to Coventry – plenty of resting time.
From a mixture of road-rage, stress and headaches I’d given up my car over a year ago, but I could still bomb about in my Dad’s if I needed to. On this occasion though, Dad’s girlfriend, Sam had opted to drive so I looked forward to keeping my leg firmly rested on the back seat.
We all planned to meet at my Dad’s house, so at 9.30am my sister picked me up with my bags.
I was surprised to walk through the door and see banners, balloons, party poppers, a cake, cards, presents, a breakfast banquet and everyone lined up shouting Happy Birthday.
I was immediately happier. The ache in my foot was fading away and being replaced by excited squeals.
So, let me introduce you to the Spice Girls from Hull. There was me, I was Sporty Spice. Alex (my sister) was Scary Spice. Sam (Dad’s Girlfriend) was Baby spice. Kate (Sam’s bestie) was Ginger Spice (Posh spice wasn’t doing the tour so we weren’t too bothered about finding our 5th traitor Spice).
After a photo shoot by Dad (a real photographer), we had our t-shirts on and our bags packed – the car loaded up and Spice Girls CD at the ready; so it was time to get on the road.
– oh, er after we went to Asda… Oh, and then the petrol station… Oh, and back home for the SatNav…
That was it, really…
…but just as I got my poorly leg sprawled out on the back seat (over my sister’s legs) -“Oh no”, shouts Sam, as we set off for the 3rd time, “I haven’t taxed my car”. We all look at each other.
“I’m on it”, shouts Alex, “what’s your Reg Number?”
They to-and-fro questions and answers as Alex tries to make the transaction on her phone.
“Unable to complete- MOT Out of Date. Sam, when is your MOT due?” Says Alex.
“Whaaaaat?” Squeals Sam. “Not for, like, another month. Let me call your Dad.”
At this point we are only approaching the town centre and not too far away from home.
“Dean, we can’t tax my car it says the MOT is out of date”.
“Whaaaaat?” He laughs down the speaker phone. “Hang on, let me have a look.” There’s a pause, some scrambling and paper-shuffling noises at the other side of the line — “Sam, it ran out yesterday.”
“Saaaaam” Me, Kate and Alex shout in unison.
Sam let’s out a nervous giggle and a much quieter “Oh No”. We all see her look about the car and realise she needs to pull over.
“Dad, I shout from the back, can you get your car to us on St Andrews Quay? We will pull over there. You can take Sam’s car home and we will take yours.”
“Going to have to, aren’t I”, he chuckles.
The phone clicks off. There’s a silence before we all burst out laughing and start ribbing Sam.
“I can’t believe it, I thought it was next month”, obviously a bit shocked, she then says, “erm, I can’t drive your Dad’s car though”. Before anyone can get anymore concerned about the situation –
“Don’t worry I love that little Golf”, I pipe up, “it’s a right go-er, I’ll do it.”
“What about your leg though?!” She says, a little worried.
We turn into the car park of the Quay.
“It’ll be fine, I’ll only be using it to accelerate, if it gets bad, you might have to bite the bullet – but Kate and Alex can both drive too. We’ll be fine.”
Thirty minutes pass and my little brother rolls into the car park.
“Yayyyy,” we all cheer, “Thanks Ben.”
We repack the cars, going from a 2006 Ford Fusion 1.6 TdCi to a 2006 Golf 2 Litre SDI 60mpg car in a few minutes. We weren’t messing about.
I strap myself in, adjust the mirrors, make the seat low and get into gear.
We tear out the car park before Sam shouts again, “Oh no, WE LEFT THE CD IN THE OTHER CAR!”
“Let’s just get there shall we”, Kate and Alex shout.