The little old lady looks up at you in astonishment: you can see me? she says. You look around for an escape route as, frankly, she has a slightly rheumy, crazy look in her eye and you are beginning to get worried. She shuffles closer, peering up at you, a questioning almost disbelieving look on her face. You mumble an almost imperceptible “yes” and begin to edge away. But she is a stubborn little woman, and she suddenly holds up a tattered old Tesco bag-for-life in your face. The bag looks like it has come to the end of its life and there’s a slightly musty, damp, muddy smell emanating from it, but the little shrunken woman waves it enthusiastically about in front of you. Do you want to see, she asks. No, you really don’t want to see what you strongly suspect are her unwashed undergarments, but she now has you backed up against a wall and your escape routes are becoming more and more limited. Reluctantly you agree and with a huge, toothless grin the walking, talking walnut in an overcoat grabs your hand and suddenly starts to pull you down the street toward a little used, darkened alleyway. “Woah, woah, wait a minute…”, you start to protest, but this old lady has surprising strength and her grip is like iron. She drags you into the alleyway saying that her house is just at the end, round the corner and next to the creek. The creek? That’s where the bodies always get washed up, and you start to sweat with worry, and no little embarrassment, that you have been apprehended maybe to be murdered by a desiccated old woman. Oh, the ignominy of it all. You wish you’d worn clean underwear. Suddenly the sweat oozing from your palms enables you to pull you hand free and the two of you fall apart; the momentum causing the old lady to fly off into the wall ahead and her bag is thrown into the air. The contents spill out over you as you fall with a thump to the ground. Its contents revealed you discover that it is not her unwashed smalls that you have spread across your face, but pieces of fabric embroidered with something neat and intricate. The old woman curses a little under her breath as you stare in amazement at the detail woven into the cloth. You are mesmerised and jump as the old woman appears next to you out of nowhere. She smiles, offering a helping hand as you stand. She lays the cloth out on the floor of the alley, all thoughts of abduction, murder and the smell of fresh piss – your own as it turns out, adding to the ignominy – forgotten as she begins to explain what the tiny stitching means.
What is revealed is something truly magical.
Something you will never forget and will live to tell your children and grandchildren about.
You thank the fates that you met this old woman as she reveals to you her….blurb.
Under their feet lies magic…
When Sam falls in love with South London thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.
Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, the mysterious world that lies beneath their feet and, ultimately, the solution to their crises.
With echoes of Armistead Maupin and a hint of magic realism, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters that you will never forget.