Crissy Rock is an actress and comedian best known for her role in cult comedy TV hit Benidorm and for playing Maggie Conlon in Ladybird Ladybird. But Crissy’s path to success was far from easy. Born and bred in the backstreets of Liverpool, her poor but idyllic young life was plunged into darkness at the age of eight, when her grandfather began to abuse her both physically and sexually. Pregnant and married to a violent bully at 16 it seemed that trouble and turmoil would always stalk her. Having finally escaped her violent marriage, Crissy began to turn her life around. She tells of her first experience as a performer when a friend bet her that she wouldn’t enter a stand-up competition—she ended up being runner up in the north west region. Establishing herself on the comedy circuit she was then cast in Ladybird Ladybird for which she won Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival. From there, Crissy became a familiar face on television, landing roles in a host of popular programs including Brazen Hussies, alongside Julie Walters.This is a candid, harrowing, and often hilarious memoir. Crissy has been through some of the most shocking experiences imaginable, but what really shines through from every page, is her indomitable, wicked sense of humor. By turns harrowing and laugh-out-loud funny, this is one of the most astonishing books you will ever read. Updated from the hardcover.
|Publisher:||John Blake Publishing, Limited|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.90(d)|
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This Heart Within Me Burns: Crissy Rock
From Bedlam to Benidorm
By Crissy Rock, Ken Scott
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2012 Crissy Rock/Ken Scott
All rights reserved.
HERE I AM
Since then, at an uncertain hour, That agony returns, And till my ghastly tale is told, This heart within me burns.
I was born on 23 September 1958 at Sefton General Hospital. It was on Smithdown Road, in the Liverpool 8 area of the city.
My mum's name was Margaret and she was 20 years old when I was born, only five foot tall with brown hair and eyes that changed from blue to green in a certain light. I could never figure that one out but I swear by almighty God they did.
Dad and Nan used to say that Mum suffered with her nerves. She would disappear off to the hospital every now and again for treatment, sometimes for weeks at a time. Those damned nerves attacked her for years, but I didn't understand then what nerves were. Sometimes she would shout, 'Move – you're getting on me bleedin' nerves!' and yet we were standing nowhere near her! And sometimes Dad would shout out the same thing, as would Nan and little Nin too, but they weren't supposed to have 'the nerves' so how could we get 'on them'?
(I'd better explain. Little Nin was actually me dad's nan, not my nan. Dad had grown up thinking that 'little Nin' was his mother, but my own nan – Ninny Lizzie – who he thought was his sister was actually his mum. Nan was only 16 when Dad was born, so little Nin (his nan) brought him up as her own son. She called him Teddy, so because her last name was Ash, Dad was known as Teddy Ash, even though his real name was Eddie Murray.
God, I'm confused now and I'm part of the bloody family.)
Anyway, back to my mum. She was funny, a lovely woman who, it was said, would never hurt a fly. I'm not surprised: if one came within a foot of her she went bloody hysterical, screaming blue murder. If I ever asked her why she was so afraid of such a small creature, she would reply, 'It's me bloody nerves, girl.' Those damned nerves again.
She could be such fun. Her dancing eyes could sparkle like the crown jewels. She would spend hours making up games with us, and playing hide and seek. Well ... playing seek at least, because, as you'll discover, we had nothing in the house to hide behind. But, whenever her nerves returned, she'd withdraw into herself for long periods, like she was lost.
Dad, five foot seven and very handsome, worked as a coalman for Buller Mills Coal, at a coal yard just off Crown Street. He met Mum while she was babysitting for a friend of his, Maggie O'Hare. He married Mum in March 1958 at St Nathaniel's Church, after she found out she was pregnant with me. Six months later, in September, I was born. Mum has described the wedding as a low-key affair; not only were the two of them brassic but my dad was just getting over the shock of finding out that his 'sister' was in fact his mother. (Nan and little Nin ... remember?)
Married life for Mum and Dad found them at Mum's mum's two-bedroom flat on the fourth floor at 11D Windsor Gardens, in one of Liverpool 8's many tenement blocks. If anybody asked us where we lived, we'd reply, 'With me nan in Liverpool 8.' It was perfectly normal back then for a young couple to start their married life under their parents' roof or, if not, with an older sister or brother. The plain fact was that they didn't have enough money to furnish their own place, but they hoped that, if they lived cheaply and saved money, they might eventually afford furniture for a house of their own.
It was only a two-bedroom house and, when I was young, I slept with my nan and granddad in a big, lumpy but cosy bed that seemed to take up most of the room. I'd sleep next to the wall, and snuggle up against Nan in the middle of the bed, while Granddad slept on the outside. Today, sleeping with your grandparents would be considered a little strange, but back then it was perfectly normal. Also, in the depths of winter and with no heating in the house, I'd still be as warm as toast. I was one of the lucky ones; a girl I used to go to school with shared a bed with five others!
I don't remember an awful lot of details about my early life, but I can recall the arrival of my brother Brian, who was born on 5 February 1960. Brian and me were very close. I don't remember us ever fighting, but, there again, I suppose we must have done sometimes. I mean, all brothers and sisters do, don't they?
Our Brian was always a live wire. He loved sugar butties, and I blame all that bloody sugar for giving him the energy. One of my earliest recollections was of him standing at the table nearly drooling as Mum sprinkled the sugar on to the bread. At the same time he would tap his leg and twitch. It drove our mum crackers trying to get him to stop. But he never did, and the more excited he got, the worse it would be.
As soon as Brian was old enough, I introduced him to the incredible adventure playground that was the streets of Liverpool 8. At the time, the Liverpool council had decided to move people out of the area's many slums, and so there were lots of derelict houses waiting to be pulled down. These houses were dangerous, and therefore the greatest play areas in the world, so I wasted no time in introducing our Brian to them. Every time we went into a house we shouldn't have been in, I got goosebumps on the back of my hand. Brian would just stand there with his gob open, twitching and tapping his feet.
One game we played in those houses was inspired by an amazing film I saw on TV one day: something called Wuthering Heights written by someone Brontë. What a daft name, I thought, but, as I watched from the floor of our darkened lounge with my head propped up against the settee, I had an idea. I almost felt I was the heroine up on the moors, and so, whenever Brian and me went inside those derelict houses, Brian would call me Cathy and I would call him Heathcliff. Come to think of it, Heathcliff was a daft name as well.
We kept our games in those houses secret, and prayed that Mum would never find out. If she had known we were playing there, she would have had a canary fit and ragged us both good and proper. When Brian wasn't thinking straight and called me Cathy at home by mistake, my heart was in my mouth at times.
Sometimes on Saturdays we would have to stay in, especially if Mum had the nerves. It was as if she didn't want to let us out of her sight. Meanwhile, Dad would be watching the horse racing on TV and would yell at us to be quiet. 'I've got a bet on it,' he'd say. I'd stare and stare at the horse, wondering what that meant, but Dad would never explain, so engrossed was he in the horse and the race it was running.
We knew if we made a noise we'd be chucked outside to carry on playing, so Brian and me would devise a plan to have a fight, during which one of us would start crying.
'Stop crying,' he'd shout, 'there's me bets down again. You're putting the mockers on them. Get out and play.'
It never failed. It was even worth getting a clip round the ear sometimes if we could go and be Cathy and Heathcliff again. When Dad hit us, Mum would shout, 'Stop hitting them on the head. That's how Larry died in Curly, Larry and Moe.'
The streets in those days were great fun to be in and nobody worried about little kids being out on their own. We didn't need mobile phones, you just got yelled in. In any case, I would later find out that greater dangers lurked behind the front door of our own house.
Any old rope we found in the derelict houses would be used to make a swing for us outside. Brian would shin up the street lamp posts made of iron, and in no time would tie the rope around the top. He was the best climber in our gang, like an energetic little monkey, and we'd always give him first shot on the swing when he came down. We'd tie bits of stick and old tyres on to the bottom, anything, as long as our arses could get a grip. If we couldn't find anything to use as a seat, we'd tie a big knot in the bottom of the rope.
Brian would make the most of his first swing and we'd have to drag him off. He'd stand waiting, impatiently tapping his foot. 'It's me turn now,' he'd shout again and again until it really was his turn again.
Some of the other kids got pocket money but not us. It wasn't fair, but Dad's reasoning was 'Life isn't fair', so we'd earn our pocket money by other means. Help was at hand thanks to the Armey and Layfields factory, situated behind our tenement block. Once a week, for some strange reason, a man would stand on the factory roof and throw down wooden boxes with drawings of oranges on them.
'Fuckin' good firewood, dat,' someone would always say and we'd gather in gangs at the bottom. All the kids used to stand looking up, shouting at the men on the roof.
'Down here, mate.'
'Over 'ere, pal.'
As the boxes tumbled, we would squeal and run away, to avoid getting clobbered. I swear those factory workers aimed for us sometimes but we didn't care. Then, once the boxes hit the ground with an almighty crash, there was a big free-for-all and we'd scurry back to grab as much wood as we could. Sometimes, we'd fight with the other gangs to make sure we'd collect enough to make some money.
Then we'd tie the bundles up and drag them through the streets to one of the derelict houses where no one could see us. We'd sit around snapping the big bits of wood with our feet against the bottom step of the wooden staircase, making them into smaller bundles. Sometimes we'd use a half brick and batter the wood into even smaller pieces which always filled out the bundles of kindling. It was so much fun and worth every splinter we got in our hands and fingers.
To carry around our wooden bundles, which we would sell for a penny or whatever anyone would give us, we'd send Brian to fetch his stirrey. A stirrey was like a cart made of wood that, if you were lucky, had two big wheels at the back and two smaller ones at the front. Brian's stirrey was an integral part of the business and that made him proud.
The firewood business was a good one to be in as a kid. Sometimes people would give us empty milk bottles as payment. They were worth a penny if you returned them to the dairy. We'd also get paid with lemonade bottles. Those were like gold dust: you got three pennies for them by returning them to the local corner shop. Gradually, the stirrey would fill up with bottles as the wooden bundles were sold and, after a trip to the dairy and the corner shop, our pockets were full. Who needed pocket money?
Once we'd received our payment, we could spend our earnings at Tunnel Road, home to the picture house. We loved going to the flicks. When the curtains opened, the whole picture house would start cheering, but the first Saturday we ever went, Brian began to cry when the cheering started as he didn't know what was happening. He cried that much I had to take him home, by which time I was crying myself because I knew I'd missed the film too and the bloody woman at the picture house wouldn't give us our money back.
Our Brian was always nervous, even when he was little; he had a nervous laugh that would turn into a cry. But I didn't mind him crying. I could never get angry with our Brian. When he started to cry, I would grab his hand and say, 'Come on, shut up, you're all right now.' I would put my arm around his shoulders and he'd stop. Not only was Brian my brother, he was my best friend too.
The next week, after another bumper time for our firewood business, I'd take Brian back to the picture house. The pictures would always start with a sweaty, suntanned man banging a gong, and then the titles appeared on-screen. As he bashed his gong three or four times, that was the signal for Brian to get excited and start tapping his foot again. We watched all sorts of films but mostly cowboys and Indians. Brian loved those the best.
In the summer, Mum and Dad would take us to the park at weekends and, sometimes, as a real treat, on the ferry across the water to a place called New Brighton. I thought we were going to another country but later we found out it was just across the other side of the River Mersey.
When the ferry got to the other side of the river, it was like a big free-for-all. Everyone would be bustled up, eagerly waiting for the ferryman to drop the gangway so we could all get off. He had to make sure everyone was behind a metal strip so the gangway wouldn't hit anyone. He'd be like a man possessed, waving his hands and shouting, 'Calm down! I'm doin' not'n until you calm down and get back!'
So we'd all shuffle back and nod our heads and stand patiently, as if we were in the school dinner queue. The ferryman would wait until everyone was calm and quiet. Then, as soon as the gangway had dropped down, it was like the bloody Dunkirk landings. Everyone would rush off to get to the beach first. Everyone wanted the best spot and to have as much time on the beach before they had to head back and catch the last ferry back to Liverpool.
Me and Brian would play on the beach, collecting shells for Mum, and building sandcastles that were the strangest and oddest shapes because we never had a bucket or spade. We'd use our hands and empty tins and cartons that we'd find on the beach. Then we'd rush back to Mum for jam butties. Those great days out always felt endlessly warm and sunny, and I can remember sitting on the back of the ferry as we waved goodbye to New Brighton, wishing we could live there forever.CHAPTER 2
The ship was cheer'd the harbour clear'd, Merrily did we drop Below the kirk, below the hill, Below the lighthouse top.
At that time of our lives, everything seemed so cosy; we never gave a thought to any dangers in the street or who or what could be lurking in the derelict houses and we'd never heard of paedophiles or murderers. The only bad men we'd heard of were Ole Nick and Spring Heeled Jack. Mum would say, 'Don't go wandering off or Spring Heeled Jack will get you' or 'Don't be naughty or I'll send you to Ole Nick.'
Occasionally, you would hear of a burglary or a mugging, but that was big news and very rare. We were brought up to know that the people who did such things were bad. Mum and Dad drilled into us what was right and wrong. We had a huge loving family and loads of friends and, even though we didn't have any money, in many respects we were the richest kids in the world. I would never have swapped those first six or seven years of my life for all the tea in China.
Nan, who we lived with in Windsor Gardens, was called Henrietta, but everyone called her Hetty. She was dead funny. She too was very small, only five foot in her stocking feet, and she had a lone gold tooth set in her false teeth which glistened whenever she smiled. I have a picture of her in my head standing in front of an open fire laughing at some funny story she had relayed, her gold tooth sparkling like a beacon as her head lolled backwards, and not being able to speak for laughing so hard. Apart from her gold tooth, a worn thin wedding ring was the only other gold thing she ever owned.
I remember her long fair hair and her constant singing. Her pride and joy was an old stereogram that stood on legs under the window and looked like a bloody big coffin. Her favourite singer was the country and western artist Jim Reeves, and she played his records morning, noon and night. I don't know if she had any records of other singers but if she did they'd never come out of the box. Her favourite Jim Reeves song was 'Welcome To My World'. More often than not, as I came in from school, it would be playing. As I came through the door, she would always have a smile for me.
I can still hear her now, saying, 'Hello, me little one. D'yi wanna join me in a dance?'
I'd smile and nod, and run over to where she stood grinning with her arms held out wide. I would step on to her slippers and she would waltz me around the room singing along word-perfect to 'Welcome To My World'. I'd squeal with laughter as she closed her eyes and lost herself in her dreams. She'd open them occasionally to make sure we weren't heading for the fire then screw them tightly shut again as quickly as she could.
If I hear that song today, it still brings a tear to my eyes and I am there, back in Liverpool 8 as a six-year-old dancing with my lovely nan in the living room in my safe and loving world. A travel company has recently adopted the song for its ads on TV and, every time it comes on, I have to fight back the tears. I miss her so much. She was perfect in every way, and I loved her with all my heart.
I don't remember her ever shouting, even when she used to call me for my tea at nights. There was no need for her to raise her voice – it was as if her voice had the perfect pitch to make it heard.
Nan's skin was like silk apart from her hands that were as rough as a docker's.
Nan did everything for all of us. She seemed to sense when she was particularly needed, when Mum's nerves were about to become overpowering. Nan seemed to clean from the minute she got up until the minute she went to bed. We had nothing, no fancy furniture or fireplace ornaments but, even so, what little we had always sparkled.
Excerpted from This Heart Within Me Burns: Crissy Rock by Crissy Rock, Ken Scott. Copyright © 2012 Crissy Rock/Ken Scott. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Ken Loach,
Preface by Ken Scott,
Chapter One HERE I AM,
Chapter Two LIVERPOOL 8,
Chapter Three GRANDDAD,
Chapter Four DOWN WITH SCHOOL,
Chapter Five CONTROL,
Chapter Six GOODBYE, NAN,
Chapter Seven FAR FROM HOME,
Chapter Eight EDUCATING CRISSY,
Chapter Nine THE END OF THE ANCIENT MARINER,
Chapter Ten ANOTHER ORDEAL,
Chapter Eleven MARRIAGE MADE IN HELL,
Chapter Twelve A NEW ARRIVAL,
Chapter Thirteen FIGHTING FOR MY LIFE,
Chapter Fourteen MY DARKEST HOUR,
Chapter Fifteen WALKING AWAY,
Chapter Sixteen A NEW LEASE OF LIFE,
Chapter Seventeen TRUE BLUE,
Chapter Eighteen ANOTHER GOODBYE,
Chapter Nineteen MY BIG BREAK,
Chapter Twenty AWARDS,
Chapter Twenty One LIVING LIKE A STAR,
Chapter Twenty Two MONEY'S TOO TIGHT TO MENTION,
Chapter Twenty Three BENIDORM,
Chapter Twenty Four THE JUNGLE,
AND FINALLY ...,