• Michelle Vernal

Fact or Fiction

I like to mix a bit of embarrassing fact into my fiction, so I thought I’d share this with you…

Things that have happened :

The mosquito bite on the eye that gets a mention in What Goes on Tour and Rosi’s Regrets. You can tell I was traumatised by this because not only did it happen once, it happened three feckin times! The first time I was about ten on a camping holiday with my family. I woke up in the morning with one eye swollen shut and when Mum finally coaxed me out of the tent fellow campers either took a wide berth around me, or spoke to me really slowly and clearly for the rest of the day.

The second time this happened was in Pisa, Italy staying in a budget guesthouse. I wore Jacqui O sunglasses all day and the big Italian men kept giving Paul looks like he was a bad man and they wanted to take him down.

The third and hopefully last occasion was at home. I woke up rocking the Quasimodo look and Paul refused to give me a kiss goodbye when he left for work. The boys asked if I ‘could wear sunglasses, or something’ when I picked them up.

The inspiration for poor Kitty’s wasp sting on the bottom in the Traveller’s Daughter stemmed from real life trauma. We were heading back from our hols and had stopped at a park where I used the public toilets. I was so busy hovering over the seat, not touching anything that a wasp snuck into my tracksuit bottoms. When I got back in the car I sat on it, and I got stung. I think I’ve mentioned before that my cheek swelled to epic proportions. Paul called me his wife with three cheeks. I also caught my Doctor laughing when I dropped my pants to show her my injury.

The scene in The Cooking School on the Bay where Rebecca’s exchanging flirty banter with Ciaran not knowing she has half a chicken wing wedged between her front teeth. Yep, I was the girl who sat through the best part of a wedding reception, engaging fellow guests we hadn’t met before with my witty, small talk only to discover a lovely bit of green basil pesto stuck between my teeth. Thanks for telling me Paul!

Rebecca must have been a character close to my heart because like her, I sauntered up to this good looking fella one long ago New Year’s eve and said he smelt lovely. I asked him if he was wearing YSL’s Jazz. He said, ‘No, it’s mosquito repellent.’

There’s a scene where, Jessica from Second Hand Jane is on a bus being bounced over every pothole between Dublin and Northern Ireland. She’d gone bra-less and the driver was copping an eyeful in his rear view mirror. I stopped traffic in Auckland running for a bus when I was 18 and feeling free and easy. I, too then boarded a bus and got bounced all around the city. Oh, and for the record Jess’s Mum has an elephant suit, well mine was brown. The bear suit.

Chaffing. Say no more other than Annie, from Staying at Eleni’s has a terrible time of it

in Athens. Yes, I know what it is to suffer and walk like a cowgirl in excessively hot conditions.

Things I’ve squirreled away for future stories:

I was an early starter when it comes to embarrassing moments. At high school I was sitting on my cane bag (it was the 80’s cane was big) one lunch hour when this fellow third former sauntered over and said, ‘my brother Gary, wants to talk to you.’ Gary was a spunk (80’s speak for hot) and I was all of a dither. When he came over to say hi, I stood up realising, too late, I had half a tube of hair gel I’d left the lid off smeared all over the back of my uniform.

Walking through a pub aged twenty with an ever increasing trail of loo roll attached to my shoe. I'd thought I was looking pretty good given all the looks coming my way.

Jumping in the back of a complete stranger’s car thinking it was my friend’s outside my local fish and chip shop. I scared the couple in the front seats half to death.

Telling some new friends we’d made who’d invited us for dinner that she’d cooked a lovely piece of fish – it was chicken and we don’t see them anymore.

Getting chased by a goat down a main street while out on a walk. It did actually happen.

Something that will pop up in a future story:

In the sequel to the Promise – yet to be titled – I mention a wolf whistle incident. The last time I got a wolf whistle, flicked my hair back and looked around to see who it was from, the culprit was a Cock-a-too.

A complete figment of my imagination:

The Brazilian wax scene in The Cooking School on the Bay.

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