Nick Hornby was born in 1957 He is the author of

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Nick Hornby was born in 1957 He is the author of Fever Pitch and of three. novels High Fidelity About a Boy and How to be Good All four books have. been international bestsellers and all are published by Penguin He has also edited. two anthologies My Favourite Year and Speaking with the Angel In 1999 he was. awarded the E M Forster Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives and works in Highbury north London,NICK HORNBY. High Fidelity,PENGUIN BOOKS,PENGUIN BOOKS,Published by the Penguin Group. Penguin Books Ltd 80 Strand London WC2R ORL England. Penguin Putnam Inc 375 Hudson Street New York New York 10014 USA. Penguin Books Australia Ltd Ringwood Victoria Australia. Penguin Books Canada Ltd 10 Alcorn Avenue Toronto Ontario Canada M4V 3B2. Penguin Books India P Ltd 11 Community Centre Panchsheel Park New Delhi 110 017 India. Penguin Books NZ Ltd Cnr Rosedale and Airborne Roads Albany Auckland New Zealand. Penguin Books South Africa Pty Ltd 24 Sturdee Avenue Rosebank 2196 South Africa. Penguin Books Ltd Registered Offices 80 Strand London WC2R ORL England. www penguin com, First published in Great Britain by Victor Gollancz 1995. Published in Penguin Books 2000,Copyright Nick Hornby 1995.
All rights reserved,The moral right of the author has been asserted. Printed in England by Clays Ltd St Ives plc, Except in the United States of America this book is sold subject. to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise be lent. re sold hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher s. prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in. which it is published and without a similar condition including this. condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. For Virginia, My desert island all time top five most memorable split ups in chronological order. 1 Alison Ashworth,2 Penny Hardwick,3 Jackie Allen,4 Charlie Nicholson. 5 Sarah Kendrew, These were the ones that really hurt Can you see your name in that lot Laura I reckon you d.
sneak into the top ten but there s no place for you in the top five those places are reserved for. the kind of humiliations and heartbreaks that you re just not capable of delivering That probably. sounds crueler than it is meant to but the fact is that we re too old to make each other miserable. and that s a good thing not a bad thing so don t take your failure to make the list personally. Those days are gone and good fucking riddance to them unhappiness really meant something. back then Now it s just a drag like a cold or having no money If you really wanted to mess me. up you should have got to me earlier,1 Alison Ashworth 1972. Most nights we used to mess around in the park around the corner from my house I lived in. Hertfordshire but I might just as well have lived in any suburb in England it was that sort of. suburb and that sort of park three minutes away from home right across the road from a little. row of shops a VG supermarket a newsagent an off license There was nothing around that. could help you get your geographical bearings if the shops were open and they closed at five. thirty and one o clock on Thursdays and all day Sunday you could go into the newsagent s and. look for a local newspaper but even that might not give you much of a clue. We were twelve or thirteen and had recently discovered irony or at least what I later. understood to be irony we only allowed ourselves to play on the swings and the roundabout and. the other kids stuff rusting away in there if we could do it with a sort of self conscious ironic. detachment This involved either an imitation of absentmindedness whistling or chatting or. fiddling with a cigarette stub or a box of matches usually did the trick or a flirtation with danger. so we jumped off the swings when they could go no higher jumped on to the roundabout when it. would go no faster hung on to the end of the swingboat until it reached an almost vertical. position If you could somehow prove that these childish entertainments had the potential to dash. your brains out then playing on them became OK somehow. We had no irony when it came to girls though There was just no time to develop it One. moment they weren t there not in any form that interested us anyway and the next you couldn t. miss them they were everywhere all over the place One moment you wanted to clonk them on. the head for being your sister or someone else s sister and the next you wanted to actually. we didn t know what we wanted next but it was something something Almost overnight all. these sisters there was no other kind of girl not yet had become interesting disturbing even. See what did we have that was any different from what we d had before Squeaky voices but. a squeaky voice doesn t do much for you really it makes you preposterous not desirable And. the sprouting pubic hairs were our secret strictly between us and our Y fronts and it would be. years before a member of the opposite sex could verify that they were where they should be. Girls on the other hand quite clearly had breasts and to accompany them a new way of. walking arms folded over the chest a posture which simultaneously disguised and drew. attention to what had just happened And then there was makeup and perfume invariably cheap. and inexpertly sometimes even comically applied but still a quite terrifying sign that things had. progressed without us beyond us behind our backs, I started going out with one of them no that s not right because I had absolutely no input. into the decision making process And I can t say that she started going out with me either it s. that phrase going out with that s the problem because it suggests some sort of parity and. equality What happened was that David Ashworth s sister Alison peeled off from the female. pack that gathered every night by the bench and adopted me tucked me under her arm and led. me away from the swingboat, I can t remember now how she did this I don t think I was even aware of it at the time. because halfway through our first kiss my first kiss I can recall feeling utterly bewildered. totally unable to explain how Alison Ashworth and I had become so intimate I wasn t even sure. how I d ended up on her side of the park away from her brother and Mark Godfrey and the rest. nor how we had separated from her crowd nor why she tipped her face toward me so that I knew. I was supposed to put my mouth on hers The whole episode defies any rational explanation But. all these things happened and they happened again most of them the following evening and the. evening after that, What did I think I was doing What did she think she was doing When I want to kiss people. in that way now with mouths and tongues and all that it s because I want other things too sex. Friday nights at the cinema company and conversation fused networks of family and friends. Lemsips brought to me in bed when I am ill a new pair of ears for my records and CDs maybe a. little boy called Jack and a little girl called Holly or Maisie I haven t decided yet But I didn t. want any of those things from Alison Ashworth Not children because we were children and not. Friday nights at the pictures because we went Saturday mornings and not Lemsips because my. mum did that not even sex especially not sex please God not sex the filthiest and most. terrifying invention of the early seventies, So what was the significance of the snog The truth is that there was no significance we were.
just lost in the dark One part imitation people I had seen kissing by 1972 James Bond Simon. Templar Napoleon Solo Barbara Windsor and Sid James or maybe Jim Dale Elsie Tanner. Omar Sharif and Julie Christie Elvis and lots of black and white people my mum wanted to. watch although they never waggled their heads from side to side to one part hormonal slavery. to one part peer group pressure Kevin Bannister and Elizabeth Barnes had been at it for a couple. of weeks to one part blind panic there was no consciousness no desire and no pleasure. beyond an unfamiliar and moderately pleasant warmth in the gut We were little animals which. is not to imply that by the end of the week we were tearing our tank tops off just that. metaphorically speaking we had begun to sniff each other s bottoms and we did not find the. odor entirely repellent, But listen Laura On the fourth night of our relationship I turned up in the park and Alison. was sitting on the bench with her arm around Kevin Bannister with Elizabeth Barnes nowhere in. sight Nobody not Alison or Kevin or me or the sexually uninitiated retards hanging off the. end of the swingboat said anything at all I stung and I blushed and I suddenly forgot how to. walk without being aware of every single part of my body What to do Where to go I didn t. want to fight I didn t want to sit there with the two of them I didn t want to go home So. concentrating very hard on the empty No 6 packets that marked out the path between the girls. and the boys and not looking up or behind me or to either side I headed back toward the massed. ranks of the single males hanging off the swing boat Halfway home I made my only error of. judgment I stopped and looked at my watch although for the life of me I don t know what I was. attempting to convey or whom I was trying to kid What sort of time after all could make a. thirteen year old boy spin away from a girl and toward a playground palms sweating heart. racing trying desperately not to cry Certainly not four o clock on a late September afternoon. I scrounged a fag off Mark Godfrey and went and sat on my own on the roundabout. Scrubber spat Alison s brother David and I smiled gratefully at him. And that was that Where had I gone wrong First night park fag snog Second night ditto. Third night ditto Fourth night chucked OK OK Maybe I should have seen the signs Maybe I. was asking for it Round about that second ditto I should have spotted that we were in a rut that I. had allowed things to fester to the extent that she was on the lookout for someone else But she. could have tried to tell me She could at least have given me another couple of days to put things. My relationship with Alison Ashworth had lasted six hours the two hour gap between school. and Nationwide times three so I could hardly claim that I d got used to having her around that. I didn t know what to do with myself In fact I can hardly recall anything about her at all now. Long black hair Maybe Small Smaller than me certainly Slanted almost oriental eyes and. a dark complexion That could have been her or it could have been someone else Whatever. But if we were doing this list in grief order rather than chronological order I d put it right up. there at number two It would be nice to think that as I ve got older times have changed. relationships have become more sophisticated females less cruel skins thicker reactions. sharper instincts more developed But there still seems to be an element of that evening in. everything that has happened to me since all my other romantic stories seem to be a scrambled. version of that first one Of course I have never had to take that long walk again and my ears. have not burned with quite the same fury and I have never had to count the No 6 packets in. order to avoid mocking eyes and floods of tears not really not actually not as such It just. feels that way sometimes,2 Penny Hardwick 1973, Penny Hardwick was a nice girl and nowadays I m all for nice girls although then I wasn t so. sure She had a nice mum and dad and a nice house detached with a garden and a tree and a. fishpond and a nice girl s haircut she was blond and she kept her hair a sort of sporty clean. wholesome form captain mid length and nice smiling eyes and a nice younger sister who. smiled politely when I rang the doorbell and kept out of the way when we wanted her to She had. nice manners my mum loved her and she always got nice school reports Penny was nice. looking and her top five recording artists were Carly Simon Carole King James Taylor Cat. Stevens and Elton John Lots of people liked her She was so nice in fact that she wouldn t let. me put my hand underneath or even on top of her bra and so I was finished with her although. obviously I didn t tell her why She cried and I hated her for it because she made me feel bad. I can imagine what sort of person Penny Hardwick became a nice person I know that she. went to college did well and landed a job as a radio producer for the BBC I would guess that. she is bright and serious minded maybe too much so sometimes and ambitious but not in a. way that makes you want to vomit she was a version of all these things when we went out and. at another stage in my life I would have found all these virtues attractive Then however I. wasn t interested in qualities just breasts and she was therefore no good to me. I would like to be able to tell you that we had long interesting conversations and that we. remained firm friends throughout our teenage years she would have made someone a lovely. friend but I don t think we ever talked We went to the pictures to parties and to discos and. we wrestled We wrestled in her bedroom and my bedroom and her living room and my living. room and in bedrooms at parties and in living rooms at parties and in the summer we wrestled. on various plots of grass We were wrestling over the same old issue Sometimes I got so bored. of trying to touch her breasts that I would try to. Nick Hornby was born in 1957 He is the author ofFever Pitch and of three novels High Fidelity About a Boy and How to be Good All four books have been international bestsellers and all are published by Penguin He has also edited two anthologies My Favourite Year and Speaking with the Angel In 1999 he was awarded the E M Forster Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters He

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