Keith’s heart was pounding. Calm down, he thought. You’re not robbing a bank. You’re not kidnapping anybody.
I have to be careful talking about Misery Guts. It is true that some elements of this story are from my own life. I did grow up in South London, just round the corner from where Keith, the main character, lives. The fish and chip shop his parents own is very similar to one in Plumstead where I bought chips quite often and stood outside a lot of other times pressing my nose to the steamy window wishing I hadn’t spent all my pocket money on jelly snakes.
It is also true that, like Keith, I was a good-hearted and helpful kid. But I didn’t ever helpfully paint my parents’ fish and chip shop a tropical mango gloss colour like Keith does. Neither did I helpfully but accidently burn my parents’ fish and chip shop down like he does. My parents didn’t have a fish and chip shop, and when they read Misery Guts they were very glad about that.
And yes, like Keith I did eventually move from South London with my family and go to live in Australia. Where the size of the spiders and the jellyfish and the politicians did make us wonder if we’d done the right thing.
But please don’t be fooled by these similaries between my life and Keith’s, or any of the other hundred or so you might stumble on if you read Misery Guts. This book is a story, made up in my imagination, and not everything in it is true. Please remember that.
So, to take a random example, my own parents are not, nor have they ever been, misery guts. Not at all. Barely at all. Absolutely hardly ever. Unless it’s raining. Or the cricket’s not on TV. But hardly ever.
So no, that’s not why I dedicated the book to them. You readers and your imaginations.