My Xanadu

Swapna HaddowScrapbook

I was sent a copy of ‘The Unforgotten Coat’ by Frank Cottrell Boyce from the Southbank Centre.  Unfortunately, thanks to the plague ridden two-year-old who had used my son as a hanky, I wasn’t able to attend Frank Cottrell Boyce’s talk at the Southbank but I was completely captivated by his latest read.  In fact I have read it twice this week already and for those of you who get your hands on the book, you will understand the need to do this, thanks to a lovely, endearing twist in the story.  I can’t recommend enough that you have a read of this beautiful book.

‘The Unforgotten Coat’ is an enchanting story of friendship, recollecting Julie O’Connor’s final year of primary school where she meets two refugee Mongolian brothers, Chingis and Nergui, who join her school temporarily.  The story is littered with stunning Polaroid photos that Chingis uses to charm Julie with the mysticism of Mongolia only for us to find out later that they are cleverly manipulated shots of Bootle, Julie’s English hometown.

The nostalgia of this book took me back to my school days.  I was reminded of a past crush who I found as completely fascinating as Julie finds the two brothers in this story.  My crush was neither Mongolian nor mystical, just a bloke who lived on the four-eight-two bus route to Southall.  He did however have a penchant for spinning a yarn.  In amongst his tales of being kicked out of his previous school for setting fire to the science labs (LIE) and being on the run from his father, who was trying to send him to army camp in America (LIE), was the wonderful untruth of how his great-great-great-great uncle had discovered India, backed up by an ancient map, apparently left to him by his dead grandfather.  I later found out that his grandfather was still very much alive and kicking and the map was torn out of the front of ‘The Hobbit’.  Whilst I blame him for my later years of nightmare relationships based on a deep-seated mistrust of the male species, I do thank him hugely for making me see the world in fiction and fuelling my love for writing.