Here are excerpts from the book including sounds by Chris & The Ifso, plus some extra nearlybits, like this animation…
…and this extract from the Nearly Book:
Please tell us what you think of the story and the site and send us a Nearly.
The novel starts like this:
Freya Seward sat at the kitchen table, fingers nudging the screen of her mobile, texting her friend Yasmine to say she “nearly died” this morning when she opened the BBC News app and saw the story about the baggage handlers’ strike and all flights to Marseilles being cancelled. She didn’t mention the letter from the bank that now lay spread-eagled on the pine table alongside her coffee cup, cereal bowl and laptop. The computer screen displayed a steady pulse of travel news, Twitter stream, Facebook updates with click bait links to fattest celebrities and secrets of star infidelities. Freya stared out of the window. The radiant morning shone brilliant blue, the garden golden with strewn leaves from last night’s storm, but all she saw was red.
From the hall came the sound of a key in the lock. “Hello?” Nothing. “Who’s there?” No sound except the thud of her heartbeat and the ping of a notification. The handle of the kitchen door twitched, began to turn, creaked slowly open. “Hello?” Silence. Through that crack her every terror prepared to pour.
A small felt woman in superhero garb poked its head round the door, mouth opening and closing as a voice called out: “It’s… Wonderdaughter!”
Freya stifled a gasp as Pippa, tall and skinny in blue jeans and black leather jacket, walked in, bowed theatrically, pulling the glove puppet carefully off her arm. Freya slammed both hands down on the letter.
“Pip! Bloody hell!”
“Didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Bloody hell. Give me a hug.” Freya reached out her arms and Pip leant down to be embraced. “That’s better. Can you stay for a coffee?
“Not now, I’m afraid. Need to get my alter ego to rehearsals. Mind if I leave the van outside?”
“Superpower: free parking. That’s ok, but leave the keys. Your dad’s away.” She proffered her cheek, which Pippa kissed lightly. “Off walking with Martin.”
“Walking? You’re joking me.” Pippa carefully folded the puppet into her backpack, zipped it up, hoiked it onto her shoulder, dropped the car keys on the table and headed for the front door.
“See you later, honey.”
“I may have to pick up the car and just go to be honest. Sophe’s invited the writer round tonight. See you, mum.”
A few seconds later and the door slammed. Freya sighed, looked back at her phone, heart still thudding. She could do with a superhero right now to save her from ruin, but Pip might not be the best person to confide in about that.
Yasmine, on the other hand: she’d been a confidante ever since the days of The Rainbow Garden. They’d stayed in touch through the decades, after Freya and Jamie bought the place and it reverted to being plain 10 Rayner Gdns. Then Yas moved back to France to find work. Freya missed her like mad, needed so badly to share her woes with someone she trusted. A few weeks ago she’d fixed a weekend to visit Marseille, booked a plane ticket and a cheap hotel near Yasmine’s tiny bedsit, downloaded a Lonely Planet Guide – and now this bloody strike, which of course she supported but wasn’t half a drag, and this letter from the bank too, and everything was screwed. Ok, she was skint, her business teetering closer to the brink than she’d told Jamie yet – or realised herself really, until this letter and its fierce red demands – but dammit, she wasn’t going to let the bastard bankers rob her of all life’s pleasures. And anyway, the new website was finally ready, almost. Zane still hadn’t got back to her re. the launch day, nor acknowledged final payment. Freya prodded the screen to put in a password and log onto her account online. Yes, she was still just as broke. . .
The ping of another notification brought her back to the room and the screen and the To Do List of her woes. No more avoiding. Some days the bear can eat you. Today she bloody well had to start eating the bear.
OUT INTO THE WIND
He knackered from wayfaring,
frantic with worrying, round round the town centre,
come back back to the homestead.
The Mumma she sleep in her chair, daytimetelly babbling as ever,
but he feeling her fading,
skin dry as bark, slack jaw, breath rasping.
He push gently cushion more under her head
gatherup mugs and detritus.
In the kitchen he washup, open the cupboard,
lift down and unscrewing the Nearly Jar.
Time to open wide the window, whisper getbetterwellpleaseplease and
sprinkling the grindings out out into the wind
which blow em up
over the top of the Spar Mini Store opposite
“I nearly… learnt to tapdance but my grandfather died.”
“I was on my way to be interviewed for the job of my dreams – then my wife’s waters broke.”
“I nearly… filmed Roger Bannister run the four minute mile, but my friend and I bumped into some girls who asked us to tea so we went with them instead.”
Jamie tried not to gasp for breath as they clambered up to the top of the ridge and stopped to look down on the big, wide, beautiful gloom of grey sky, gritstone and dark evergreen forestry. A group of white haired women clattered past, fully kitted out in North Face branded fleeces, Ordinance Survey maps in plastic holders round their necks, chatting and clutching those ski pole things walkers used now, zipped into their waterproofs of khaki and mauve. And whereas Martin had stout walking boots and a large backpack, Jamie wore ordinary shoes and a raincoat, a stuffed and stained Playfest International tote bag over his shoulder, like he’d that minute strolled out of a city centre office for his lunch hour and found himself transported here by magic. This pleasant walk in the countryside was feeling like a very earnest undertaking, good for the health but a bit bloody joyless, chillier now the sun had gone in. Martin was ahead, Jamie talking to his shoulders about the central themes of the play strategy and plans for rationalising the workforce while remaining true to the Department’s core values.
Martin stopped, wiped his brow.
“I’m gagging for a pint.”
“Efficient. I think I’m getting a blister.”
“And a big bowl of chips.’
“Should’ve put talc in my socks.” Leaning against the moss-covered remains of an old dry-stone wall, Jamie felt the film of hot sweat between his tee-shirt and his body begin to cool. He peered over the edge at a huge expanse of landscape, birch trees, fields, rolling hills and valleys fading into the drizzle. Good to get away and look down from a height on things, to gain some perspective.
“But Jamie mate, don’t you think: what’s the sodding point?”
“Stops friction apparently.”
“Of helping the bosses make cuts.”
“It’s not simply about cuts.”
“Yeah, right. Dismantling local services, that’s what it’s about.”
Jamie opened his mouth, then closed it again. He considered himself to be fundamentally still just as much of a lefty as Martin, but felt oh so fed up with this constant negativity about how everything actually was in the messy, compromised world we all actually had to live and work and make decisions in.
“Come on, Comrade. The bitter beckons.” Martin’s mobile rang. He strode off, murmuring endearments to his lovely wife Connie, babbling at Stan, their cute little son. Martin walked with that bouncy strut of his which always made Jamie want to kick him hard up the arse. It took Jamie a moment longer to set off again. Puffed out and damp with sweat, trying to catch his breath, he stood as if surveying the dazzling sweep of nature’s grandeur.
“Definitely – a blister.”
get over it. He was in his mid fifties for god’s sake, separated from his wife – what right did he have to expect a sex life at that age? Except there was that nice Italian woman who worked in the Café Del Mondo sometimes.
meet that nice woman in the Cafe Del Mondo who always stamped his loyalty card twice and remembered his name. He would never dare ask her out, didn’t even have the confidence to look her in the eyes.
meet that nice woman in the Cafe Del Mondo. “By the way, what’s your name?” he’d ask when he went up to fetch his latte. “You know mine.” They’d fall into conversation.
meet that nice woman. Tell her that his wife’s left him, that he now suspects his daughter may not be his daughter.
meet that nice woman, skip over the getting to know each other, the machinations and trysts. One way or another she’s now in his room. They’re on the bed together…
meet that nice woman in the Cafe Del Mondo. And everything at this stage goes blank. A terrible sinking feeling. Whiteness and silence. He wouldn’t be there. Her wanting him in the first place – ridiculous.
meet that nice woman in the Cafe Del Mondo. And she’d serve him a coffee and never think twice about him.
meet that nice woman in the Cafe Del Mondo. Since when did a sexual fantasy have to be realistic? Hadn’t he imagined encounters with supermodels and neighbours and women sitting opposite him on buses over the years without any trouble?
meet that nice woman. Tell her that his wife’s left him, that he now suspects his daughter may not be his daughter…
…nearly the end…
Freya couldn’t get that Redcoat voice out of her head. When words came to her she imagined the letters pouring fron her mouth and floating in the air. She described the view to herself and the room was filling up with the description: nouns, verbs, adjectives arising and jumbling. She tried to think very simply in order to keep the words short and manageable, but no, her mind was loquacious, garrulous, verbose, blathering, multiloquent, deblabberous. To stop herself making more words she made pictures instead, lots of variations on herself, like cartoon characters. She played with her singer self, her radical dancer, her flirt, her politician and her adventurer, her supermum and singleton, her brainiac and bummer, she stared at the ceiling and watched it beginning to squirm with what she realised must be the nearly dust. She was child, teenager, neverwoman, everywoman. She turned to look at Carraday and found he was glowing like the sun and she thought, “Oh god, I am becoming absurdly stoned.”
And still they sat in the darkening hotel room and he talked, his voice slurring as he carried on drinking, her mind warping around his words. It seemed he was talking about his drunken (sloshed, plastered, intoxicated, inebriated…) father. And it crept up on her, and then it pounced, the full narcotic rush, and it was all starbursts and weird and segments of obsession with this corner of the bedspread, this unfathomable suchness of the back of her hand. And his presence glowed brighter and hotter. The spreading awareness of each other’s presences actually, their bodies’ closeness, blood pumping to places it usually doesn’t, and the brain blotting out all the usual, making a hiding place between them, redcoat and the magician, hunkered down in the dark like teens at a houseparty. She looked at him looking at her, eyes locking, that astounding smile sending out showers of sparks, and in silence she reached out to him, their hands not quite touching but massaging the space between them, hands and bodies closer and closer for what seemed like an eternity. Until the eternity was over…
from THE LITTLE BOOK OF NEARLY
Close your eyes
Run on the spot as fast as possible for 20 seconds
Run on the spot as fast as possible for 20 seconds
Run on the spot as fast as possible for 20 seconds
In your mind carry on running.
Thus you may enter the Nearlyverse.