It’s time I just came right out and admitted it. My friends and family, and most of all, readers of my fiction have been telling me this for years, but I’ve been in denial. No longer. I’m standing up now and saying in a clear, unashamed voice, ‘My name is Vicki and I have a thing about chips.’
The process of putting together this website, listing my published stories, combined with talking to people about my forthcoming novel has forced me to finally face it. There are a hell of a lot of chips in there. Of course I’ve asked myself why.
Is it simply a side effect of being Scottish? No, I don’t think so. Plenty of other nationalities love chips and they don’t get all the ‘everything with chips’ jokes that are directed at the Scots. We didn’t even invent them. I think it was the Belgians. So, no, being Scottish doesn’t make me write about chips. The great and illustrious canon of Scottish literature is full of hundreds, thousands, of books that do not contain a single, solitary chip. I myself have written many more stories that don’t involve chips than ones that do, but somehow, the ones with chips seem to do well.
Although I don’t adhere slavishly to the ‘write what you know’ maxim – literature would be a pretty boring place if everyone only did that – I did work in a chip shop, several chip shops to tell the truth. I’m a serial chip shoveller. It’s been a few years now though, since I last dished the deep-fried goods, so why do they keep rising to the surface of my writing?
Any job that involves serving food to the public will teach you a lot about how people behave, especially when they think it doesn’t matter. But there’s something about a chippy that makes it different from working in a restaurant. (I know, I’ve done that too.) Folk go to a restaurant with their friends, relations, business associates. They go for conversation and relaxation. Food is somewhere on the list of priorities, but it’s not the only thing. In a chippy it is. People only go into a chippy when they’re hungry – proper empty, growling, need-to-fill-that-gap hungry. And that makes them naked in a way you don’t see in many other situations. It makes some of them angry, some nervous, some excited, some vulnerable, some aggressive…They don’t feel they have to ‘behave’ in the way they would in a sit-down place. It’s a people watcher’s matinee feature every night. Of course, it didn’t feel that way at the time. It was bloody hard work. But the experience stayed with me in a way that subsequent office jobs have not. That’s why I write about chips.
(Other publications not including chips are also available.)