If you’re already familiar with my blog then you’ll know my Big News. I’m facing a public vote. Two of my blog posts have been nominated in the Best Post category of the Blog Awards Ireland contest, and one of them, An Unconventional Death, is doing rather nicely thank you!
The last time I faced a public vote – actually, the only time I have ever faced a public vote before – was 33 years ago. It was September 1980; the location – Mr Dunne’s Music Room; the purpose – to select the new Abbey House Captain. Most of the Abbey sixth-formers approached the task with a yawn, to be honest, as everyone knew who was going to win. For the purposes of discretion, I’ll call her CJ. CJ was, I suppose, way back then, when the term hadn’t yet been coined, the IT girl of our year group – a role wholly created and lovingly nurtured by her. Yes, she was probably the best looking girl in the class, and yes, she was the one who always had a boyfriend, and, okay, yes, it was definitely CJ who knew all about style and make up and panache before the rest of us could even spell the word. But she did work bloody damn hard at it.
CJ had worked out pretty early on in her school career that she would never become Head Girl, as, despite her physical merits, she just didn’t cut the mustard when it came to academic achievement. But House Captain, now that she was born for. Unfortunately, I also quite liked the idea – but I never spoke of it, of course, because, obviously, it was CJ’s for the taking. She had been preparing for the title since first form. It was her rightful destiny. In fact, some of my fellow classmates, and a few of the teachers into the bargain, believed this was the only reason she returned to school to complete her A levels. So, as the day of the election dawned, everyone knew that CJ had it in the bag. It was merely a formality. I had been told to nominate CJ – by CJ herself, naturally – and no one expected her to face any competition. As all the girls from Abbey House squeezed into the music suite for the Big Vote, CJ stood at the front, gushing her greetings and beaming confidently, the metaphorical crown already firmly placed on her perfectly coiffed head. But then, from somewhere in the throng, someone shouted out another name: mine. The look on CJ’s face was a mixture of horror and amusement: she was both outraged that someone had dared to challenge her rightful place, and delighted by the prospect of publicly humiliating me with a landslide victory. (She liked to humiliate, did CJ. She was good at it too.)
We had to retire to the music store while the votes were cast and counted. “Don’t worry,” she smiled sweetly, “you can be my deputy”.
It was indeed a landslide victory. For me. Yep, me. And, honestly, 33 years on, it still shocks me. And delights me too, of course.
I have no expectations of victory, landslide or otherwise, this time round. I’m just happy to be there in the first place. Genuinely, properly thrilled. From the beginning, my objective has been to make it through to the final stage of the awards – when an independent panel will chose the overall winner from the top 10 posts in the public vote. And every time I see another vote notch up for me on the stats table, I pretty much get the same feeling I had back in that music room: Wow! Really? Thank you! Are you sure? It ties in very neatly with the whole naked thing.
When I realised that this was the only category in the BAI to face the dreaded public vote, I knew I’d have to focus my attention on just one of the posts – choose one to champion, so to speak. Both are extremely close to my heart, each one poignantly personal in its own way. An Unconventional Death is a tribute to my dad, who endured a dramatic death from cancer four years ago, and was nominated by my blogger friend Yvonne Watterstone. (Yvonne’s own brilliant blog, Time to Consider the Lilies, has been nominated for the Best Diaspora award, which isn’t open to a public vote, otherwise I’d be ordering you to do just that! But it’s a shoe-in to win anyway, as, quite simply, it’s exquisite – so please check her out!)
A Personal Tribute to the Last Name on the List was nominated by my talented friend and fellow novelist-waiting-in-the-wings, Natasha Geary. (Remember the name, as I know she’ll be standing centre stage waving her delicious debut novel in the air long before I am!) The post pays homage to Igor Zukelman – the last name on the alphabetical list of people who died on 9.11. Obviously Igor’s story is particularly meaningful right now – as yesterday was the 12th anniversary of 9.11. And as I was preparing dinner last night, half way across the world, the aforementioned Yvonne was tying a copy of my letter to Igor to his flag in the 9.11 Field of Hope Memorial in Tempe, Arizona. I’m proud of that post, and I’m thrilled to bits that it was nominated for this award – but, really, it was always going to be An Unconventional Death.
I swear to you, I have been overwhelmed by the response so far. Blown away. Much of my support has come from familiar sources: family, friends, fellow writers and blogger buddies – but I’ve been staggered by the amount of complete strangers my post has reached and touched too. Every message I’ve received, each personal reaction I have been privy too, and all of the re-tweeting and re-posting and texting and emailing that I know has been going on, has truly humbled me. Some responses have made me smile all day, some have made my heart leap, and several have left me balling into my cornflakes. (I eat a lot of cornflakes.) And every time I refresh the page to see how many votes I have (yes, okay, I’m obsessed) I sense my dad’s brown eyes looking at the screen from over my shoulder, brimming with pride.
So, thank you – from the very tips of my (currently pale blue) toenails to the curliest curl on the top of my head – to everyone who has read the post, voted for it, and helped to spread the word. If you’re reading this wondering what all the fuss is about, here’s the link to the post and here’s the link to the Blog Awards Ireland site. If you fancy giving me your vote, fantastic! If my post or writing style doesn’t tickle your fancy, then check out the entries from two of my competitors, The Clothesline and Lisa de Jong. Both of these posts are brilliantly written and, at the moment, they’re not getting enough votes. Hell, check them out anyway, even if you are voting for me.
I think the public voting part of the process will continue for another week or so before the finalists are announced. And yes, I know I said at the top of this post that I’ll be happy just to make that top 10 – but in truth, as time passes, the whole blooming thing is becoming more and more important to me. So, (deep breath) I’m just going to put it out there (face grimaced, eyes squeezed shut, another deep breath): achlyidrlylvtwin. (Whispers: Actually, I’d really love to win.)
Oh, and by the way, CJ was a rubbish deputy!
POSTSCRIPT – 4th October 2013
In my head I’m cartwheeling across the living room right now. It has to be in my head, as I’ve never managed a cartwheel, handstand or back flip in my life. Hell, I can’t even touch my toes. Anyway, the reason for my metaphorical blast of gymnastic energy is that I’ve made the final 10! And…not only that…I CAME TOP OF THE PUBLIC VOTE! Yup! And by quite a margin too. I don’t often get the opportunity to blow my own trumpet (another thing I can’t actually do) – but I’m blooming blasting it to the heavens right now, loud enough for my dad to hear! So thank you to everyone who took the time, and used up precious energy, to give me their vote. Even if I don’t win the judging part of the process, I’ve scored a little personal victory – actually, a flipping massive one. And for once, I don’t feel remotely naked at all!