Up Front by Emma Hart


A Short Word Before We Begin

I am not Keith.

I’ve been not Keith my whole life. I’ve just never been as acutely aware of it as I am now, stepping up to the Public Address plate as the Blessed Ng steps down, resulting in a massive average bar-lowering.

This is no reflection on Hadyn, whom I’m sure will at least be using some numbers in his columns. He’s already counting things. Numbers and I don’t get on. We went our separate ways when I was seventeen and faced a choice: 7th Form Maths with Stats, or sleeping in for an extra hour four days a week. This was a total no-brainer. The only enjoyment I was getting out of the class was seeing how late Devin could turn up and still be marked present.

A friend asked me the other night how I could possible have words like ague and callipygean stacked away in my brain. The answer’s fairly simple. You know that bit of your brain that understands physics? The bit that knows ‘why maths after fourth form’? Full of words. I may not be able to count, but my kids think ‘looking up a word’ goes, “Mum, how do you spell…” Yes, I have a lit degree, but degrees are no indication of aptitude. I once watched two engineering students fail to open the easy-peel wrapper on a block of cheese. And you don’t ever want to get an English lecturer started on the standard of grammar in essays.

I’m also white, incredibly white. So white I like Antiques Roadshow. Descended from a line of Suffolk farmers going back to the mid-sixteenth century. When I was eight, my father told me I could do whatever I wanted as long as I didn’t marry a Maori. Sometimes I feel like he’s looking up at me now, thinking ‘I really should have been more specific’. The only sport you can engage me on is cricket, and that’s partially because every Whedon fangirl likes to use the phrase ‘the sound of leather on Willow’ as often as possible. Somebody really should be working on getting PA’s racial diversity up, but it won’t be me. I’m working on getting in touch with my inner lesbian midget.

I shall, however, be sticking with the New Wave PA determination not to endlessly bitch about my health. So there’ll be no mention of my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, fibromyalgia, dermatitis, migraines, hip ligament damage, tomato allergy, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome or insomnia. For all you can tell, I could be dozing painlessly in a massive tank of puttanesca.

Nor will I be pimping my children for column material. Again. Grumplestiltskin and Princess Kick-Arse deserve the right to give away all their own secrets on the internet for themselves. Note I make no promises in re: my friends or the rest of my family.

Like any good Democratic presidential candidate, Public Address is often described as elitist. The discourse is daunting and insists on using words like ‘discourse’. People are intimidatingly and unfairly armed with information to back up their opinions. Well, I once got sternly frowned at in a Lit Theory lecture for calling Deconstruction ‘intellectual wanking’, and I’ve been known to discuss my underwear preferences on the internet. Bars don’t get much more lowered than that. After all, we midget lesbians need to be able to reach our beers too.

Please note: some statements in this column may not be entirely, or even approximately, true. Start as you mean to go on and all that.

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