Interview with Humiliation Story author Polly Thomas
It is fitting that I am in ‘The Bee Hive’ in Newcastle’s ‘Bigg Market’, to interview local author Polly Thomas. Polly has just published ‘Scenes from an English Pub’, which contains her three stories, ‘Mutton Dressed as Lamb’, ‘Graduation Day’, and Lisa’s last Night’ all together in one volume for the first time. She is prompt and immediately outgoing. Eager to talk about her life and work, and her relationship with her mother, Ruthie Tudor, whose own memoir ‘Miner’s Wife, Police Whore’ is included in the collection as a free bonus.
‘Can I just start by asking you about Ruthie, whose idea was it to include her story in your book?’
She smiles, ‘It just seemed obvious really. My stories all have various forms of humiliation as a central theme, and her story was about her own actual experience of working topless after hours in some of the police pubs during the strike. It just seemed a natural fit really.’
‘In that story though, Ruthie goes a lot further than just being topless, she is engaged in actual prostitution. Is that something she has spoken to you about at all?’
‘Well she has never hidden it from me. Over the last few years she has come to terms with what she did, and some of the early guilt has left her. After all it wasn’t as if she chose to get involved or anything, it was forced on her really by a mixture of poverty and blackmail.’
Polly seemed a very mature twenty-four and had obviously seen quite a bit in her young life. I wanted to ask her more about what it is like for a mother and daughter to share such intimacies. ‘How does it feel to talk about such intimate experiences with your own mother?
‘Well to be fair, she has always been quite open about things. We have been out drinking together and discussed people and places, so it all been natural really. We tend to look at issues in similar ways. In her thirties she had a drink problem and turned to prostitution to fund that, so I have always seen that life at first hand.’
I want to ask why ‘humiliation’ is such a central theme. Is it just an interest or is there more to it than that? ‘Tell me about humiliation. Why is it such a feature of your stories? And indeed your mothers?’
She thinks for a few seconds. ‘I’m not really sure, what I write about seems to just flow from my moods, I don’t consciously ‘choose’ anything. So I suppose that deep down I must feel some affinity. I can see that for some women it is a kind of addiction; a basic need to seek it out. Others seem to have it thrust upon them, but they put themselves in situations where it can be.’
‘Your mother maybe?’
‘I am not sure. As I say her early experiences were to some extent forced on her, but since I feel she has had a pattern in her life where her relationships are all of a certain type.’
Interesting, I push a little harder. ‘Abusive you mean?’
She shakes her head. ‘I really don’t think I can add much to that really.’ I think she is being discreet. I decide to change tack and ask her about her stories.
‘All your stories so far have been set in and around pubs. I know you do bar work. So is the material gathered from both sides of the bar?’
She seems to shake off her sombre mood. ‘I love pubs, they are a great way to pass the time, or have a good time. Serving is different, can be very busy so not much time to spend people-watching. But it’s surprising how patterns of behaviour repeat themselves over and over. You see certain types and situations over and over. That’s where ‘Mutton Dressed as Lamb’ came from, seeing middle-aged women out on the pull.’
‘Definitely a type. Women who come into places wanting to hook up with a guy but the places they go tend to attract a younger crowd. So they try and show a bit more flesh in an effort to compensate. But what they end up with at the end of the night is the guys that haven’t pulled. You could see the desperation all over both sides really. The women knowing they were the last resort and they guys having to settle for older.
What about ‘Graduation Day’, it was it was based on a true incident.’
‘Yes it was. I was the girl in that story although I have jazzed her looks up a bit. But it wasn’t my graduation day, just a lazy afternoon where me and my half-brother drifted into the wrong pub, at the wrong time. It was my first view of what you might call fast violence. Pretty scary.’
‘Lisa’s Last Night’ is a pretty graphic story isn’t it. How much of that was fact and how much fiction?
‘You see girls in the Bigg Market, especially on the busy night obviously off their heads with drink, just trying to get as pissed as possible as fast as possible. The story starts from there and goes where it goes…I have actually seen things like that loads of time…but her motive is what I added really. To make a story of it.’
Will there be more ‘pub tales’ forthcoming?
‘I would think so, I love the writing and am always seeing things and people and thinking ‘that would make a good story.’
Just a last question about bar work ‘Would you ever go topless after hours?’
She smiles diplomatically. ‘Well, I’ve never been asked. But I have got them out a few times at parties when pissed. Just flashing you know…’ she laughs.
Polly Thomas. Thank you, and good luck with the book.
To read Polly’s Collection click on the following links:
March 8, 2012 Tags: alcohol, amazon, Amazon kindle, anthologies, blackmail, crime, degradation, english pubs, exhibitionism, flashing, humiliation, milf humiliation, milf story, polly thomas, pub stories, ruthie tudor, sex stories, sex story, short stories, short story, topless, urban stories Posted in: writing