Have you seen her?

Sadly, we won’t any more.

Victoria, I’m so sorry that you are gone.

Like Pratchett, like Sue Townsend, the words of Victoria Wood held my teenage years together. They gave me the glue to stick it out. They gave me the humour to laugh about things that a lot of the time were unspeakably grim. They gave me brilliant, anarchic and yet kind role models that continue to be my yardsticks to this day, and will continue to be to the end of my life.

What Victoria gave me that was unique to her, I think, was not only that she was a woman, doing her own thing in her own way, in a world dominated by men, and who made it look easy, even though it mustn’t have been at all easy, but that she was about stuff I knew about.

She wasn’t being in your face anarchic. She wasn’t rebelling against the system. She was inside it, holding it up to gentle, loving, ridicule and pointing at it.  Like Alan Bennett, who I went on to discover much, much later, she talked about the world I knew. She talked about the real mysteries of reality; like why handbags and leotards get lumped together in department stores, and how you pronounce Spudulike, and what you do in a washeteria. She talked about the relentless trauma of nit combing a child. She talked about the absurdities of terrible day time television.

Most joyous of all, she captured the speech patterns and rhythms of the people I live amongst, the absolutely nonsensical one liners, the malapropisms, the beautifully timed remarks that seemed so naive and yet undercut all pomposity. She just handed it out joyfully, gleefully. She shared it all with you, and you were welcome to it.

Her phrases became my phrases, words that have been misquoted and polished and lovingly churned out time after time in my everyday life until they have seamlessly become part of our family history:

In a theatre sitting behind someone very tall/big, the urge to tap them on the shoulder and ask them if they wouldn’t mind losing four stone, is overwhelming.

On producing biscuits for tea, one must inevitably shout ‘macaroon?’ in the voice of Mrs. Overall.

Bad service in a restaurant if comical rather than infuriating always invokes: ‘Two soups?’

In a supermarket, looking for a price. Whatever it is, you hold it up, show it to your partner/mum/friend: ‘Red cabbage? How much?’ They look at it, put their head on one side, and in that quizzical way answer: ‘Red cabbage. No idea!’ Throwing their hands into the air with hapless joy.

Trying to convince someone that something is true, you always say: ‘It’s totally bono fodo.’

Spotting terrible make up: ‘Eyes are lookin’ up, while lips are recedin’

Looking for someone: ‘Ave you seen ‘er?’

On picnics, we always look for a nice pile of gravel chipping by the side of an A road in homage. Once, when my best friend and I were on holiday with her family in Cornwall, and we actually stopped in a lay-by, by the side of an A road, next to a huge mountain of gravel chippings, in sight of Goonhilly, my friend and I laughed so much we had tears running down our faces and could not even hold our sandwiches.

And, in our house, when someone dies, as a gesture of helpless sympathy: ’72 baps Connie, you slice, I’ll spread.’

I’ve dragged myself into the kitchen, Victoria. I’ll butter one for you.

6 responses to “Have you seen her?

  1. My mum loved her so I grew up listening to cassette tapes of the funniest sketches I’d heard and have fond memories of learning all of the words to the ballad of Barry and Freda for a school talent show. Before Google, so we’d keep having to pause and write them all down. Such a great comic.

  2. Written from the heart, Katy. I love it.

  3. Thank you for that Katie, you have hit the nail on the head again. Bless you.

  4. Beautifully written Katy. I was laughing out loud at some of Victoria’s best bits last night.

  5. Beautiful essay….

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