Tuesday, 22 August 2017

CONTROLRadioUK Interviews Samantha Benjamin

Samantha Benjamin is a woman of many talents. Soon off on a new adventure at University, she is releasing her debut book 'I Am This Girl; Tales of Youth' on the 26th September which you can order : here. Alternatively you can read the book here.

It is sure to be the first of many. She is also a songwriter, producer, works on various websites, and her first short film 'The Cemetery' is coming out in October. Recently Samantha sat down with our CEO Trisha for a talk on her book, what inspired it, and gave us an exclusive first look at the cover along with an excerpt from the first chapter.

When Phil and Natalie first reveal that they want to move to Morpington, Tammy isn’t thrilled. It’s up North. Tammy hates up North. With her friendships at school strained, living with the daily fear of bumping into Lorraine in the corridors, and the scars of the not so distant past continuing to haunt her? Tammy decides up North isn’t so bad. A fresh start is just what she needs. Somewhere no-one knows her and she can be whoever she wants to be.

Where Tammy goes though, trouble is never far behind. Doors are unlocked forcing Tammy to face up to things she’s long tried to hide from. It’s not long before Tammy’s life is turned upside down, and she’s knee-deep in rivalry, jealousy and danger. As the dust settles Tammy begins to wonder; is it the place that is the problem or her?

Chapter One – The Beginning

Whenever you move onto a new place you call it an adventure. Whatever happens, happens. It’s all part of the journey of self-discovery. We learn new things about ourselves, embrace the culture and surroundings. Question aspects of yourself you weren’t even aware existed, and in years to come wonder if any of it would’ve happened if you hadn’t moved.

“Are you ready?” “As I’ll ever be”.

When Natalie first approached Tammy about moving from London to Morpington, she laughed in her mother’s face. It wasn’t as if she didn’t like the idea of moving. They’d done it when Tammy moved up from Nursery to Primary School. Tammy loved travelling. She was always the first to sign up for school trips, and somewhat enjoyed the trips out with her dad. She liked the train and bus journey’s, looking out the window at the farms, rivers, horses and sheep eating grass, hillsides and mountains. It was all fun.

The part she enjoyed most though was knowing she’d eventually go back home to her room. She could look out her bedroom window at the Mew’s mixed cobbled road. The houses with white garages were on her left gleaming in the moonlight. On her right were the wooden garden doors of different shapes and sizes, which belonged to the residents of Queens Road.

There was an open white paved walkway on Queens road. If you walked straight the way down on the left was a dingy, smelly subway. It connected to the far left side of Mulls road, which was home to the local underground station, shopping centre and various bus stops connecting to different parts of London. There was always a man standing in the subway, with his guitar, singing joyfully away for a few bits of change.

Facing Queens Road was the Traynark Estate. With its black towering blocks that stretched over 20 floors, small green area known for extra curriculum activities next to the park and across from the community centre, and uninviting roads cutting off everywhere you looked to places unknown, it was not a very welcoming place.
Tammy on the occasion attempted to hang out with the kids from the Estate in the playground. They’d go for a spin on the round wheel, close their eyes and the wheel turned as fast as the children could run around it, and whoever was able to get up non dizzy and nauseous was crowned the winner. But the children didn’t much like her.

She’d moved into the Mews off the Estate at the age of 5, coming with Natalie from a previous Estate an hour away. Natalie was very cautious over letting Tammy hang with the kids due to the Estate’s bad influences. Tammy spent most of her time in her room, riding up and down the Mews on her bike or playing tennis against the back of the houses wall.

She only really ventured onto the Estate to go to the Newsagents or Convenience store on the main road. The Estate kids took this as Tammy believing she was better than them and took great joy in airing their feelings.

At the bottom of the Mews were overgrown trees and a small area of mud that was cut off from view. Tammy enjoyed sitting there with her bike, watching the vehicles speed round the roundabout, with the water tower illuminating the area after dark.
There was nothing better for Tammy on a sleepless night than staring out her window at the water tower, looking at the Mews lit up by the bright orange street lamp. Hearing people arrive home from nights out. Watching cats dart across the Mews as fast as they could, and the Foxes riffle through the bins for food.
It was homely.

Morpington on the other hand was not.

The sun disappeared, replaced by grey clouds, drizzle rain and gloom as the train sped past the Countryside. Though there was no way she was going through with it, Tammy agreed to view the house to give mum her thoughts. Natalie claimed she wanted a change of scenery and Phil had been offered a job, making the move perfect.

The reality they believed Tammy ignorant to was Phil, having grown up in the North, wanted to move back as he was homesick. Natalie initially refused being a London girl, and not wanting to disrupt Tammy’s life. As time wore on, the arguments between her and Phil grew more intense and Natalie caved for the sake of their sanity.

Leading up to the visit, things weren’t good for Tammy at School. Once again, she was arguing with her best friends Sonia Brown and Kristie Lee. That wasn’t exactly breaking news since it was rare for them to ever go a week without arguing.

Kristie had piercing blue puppy dog eyes, silky long straight blonde hair, slim build and was always so caring with a bubbly personality to match. All she had to do was look at you and any anger you felt evaporated. Sonia always had judgement in her sturdy brown eyes, black hair usually tied back either in mini plaits courtesy of her Aunts or a round knot, she was slim build and taller than Kristie and Tammy, which was a surprise given how much Tammy towered over mum.
Tammy and Natalie got off the train, greeted by a soaking wet grey platform, fresh smell of urine in the air, Tammy knew Morpington was not for her.

There was vomit from a pint too many the previous night on the staircase to the main entrance. White tiled flooring made up the station floor, with red and orange bricks making up the walls and lamp lights matching the transparent glass ceiling. Grey clouds passed them by as Tammy stared at the ceiling.

On the far-right side of the station through double brown doors was the narrow rectangular closed ticket office. Two self-service machines and various timetables were by one set of black transparent automatic doors. In the far-left corner on the other side of the station was a coffee shop and newsagents.

Busy station floors, having to hold onto mum, or extremely reluctantly dad, as they frantically dashed to get to the train on time had become Tammy’s forte. With only 5 people keeping them company, Morpington did not have that problem.

A small queue of people stood on the pavement outside the main entrance for a taxi. The outside of the station had the same ceiling, roof and orange-red brick interface as inside. Only difference was drops of rain leaking through the roof and hitting Tammy’s forehead, as rain and high winds battered them.

The people battled to keep their umbrella’s and stay dry, they chatted away in a thick Northern accent Tammy could barely understand. Yet they peculiarly eyed Tammy and Natalie, aware of the fact they had outsiders in their presence.

After what felt like an eternity, a driver finally turned his engine on and they rushed inside.

The driver looked like a tramp you’d see down Oxford Circus on an early Sunday morning; his overgrown black hair stretched through his brown baseball cap. He had a beard longer than Father Christmas.

Had he not been wearing a card that stated he was a licensed driver, Tammy would’ve called the Police. His clothes were badly worn in and his car smelt the way they Station looked. Tammy had thought Morpington was bad, but she hadn’t expected this. The journey to the house wasn’t much better.
“Aint seen ya before luv” The driver grunted in his thick Northern accent as he turned the taxi onto the main road and drove down toward the shopping centre “Visitin or lookin fa long term prospect?” the driver enquired, eying Tammy and Natalie in the back seat through the overhead mirror.
Tammy thought his attention would’ve been better served on the road.

“My partner and I came here a few months ago, to look at a house” Natalie politely replied with her London accent shining through, looking out the window at the traffic amongst them as the rain simmered “We’ve found a nice one but my daughter gets the final vote” Natalie explained.
“See” the taxi driver disappointedly noted the word ‘partner’ and turned his attention back to the road.

Men hitting on mum wasn’t anything new to Tammy.

It constantly happened when they were together, Natalie often annoyingly mistaken for Tammy’s older sister. With her strawberry red hair, hazel eyes and regular workouts, Natalie was in good shape.

The taxi grinded to a halt by an alleyway by the top of Clersham Road. Natalie paid the driver, Tammy carefully stepped back out into the pouring rain and took in her surroundings.

Had the road sign not read ‘Clersham Road’ and beside her a bus stop, with a small set of shops occupying what looked to be former Tudor houses on the main road, Tammy would’ve believed the driver had taken them on a round trip of Arnay Rise.

There was absolutely no difference between where she was standing and what they’d driven past, giving the feeling of being trapped in a labyrinth.
The alleyway was quiet, overgrown hedges making up the top of it.

Walking past overflown, and kicked over bins, Tammy and Natalie were greeted by more houses, grouped together. The only difference here was the houses were lined together in a square shape.

Directly ahead of them lay a row of 4 houses grouped together, with more alleyways separating them from neighbouring houses.
Tammy wasn’t impressed.

That opinion didn’t change when they came to a standstill by a small brown wooden gate, overgrown tree once again looming over them on the front lawn. The grass had obviously not been cut in months, trying to expand onto the pathway which led to the brown front door. The brown window paint on the window was cracked and faded in, parts of the window works on the ground underneath it, electric cupboard broke and the bricks of the house were a depressing brown.
Inside wasn’t any better.

Whilst Tammy was making sure to take in every detail of the kitchen, Natalie was busy negotiating with the man for the table. She was willing to pay him money, but the guy refused to take it. He claimed that it’d never fit into their kitchen which Tammy agreed with, and it’d been there since he’d moved into the house. That Tammy didn’t buy.

Whilst the upstairs was disappointing, the downstairs was certainly bigger than what they had in London.
Plus, it had a front and back garden which Tammy had always wanted for herself, as most of the properties Simon had lived in had them though they’d been shared and the neighbours weren’t friendly.

When he lived at Middlesone Road and Tammy was playing tennis in the garden, to quell a few hours of boredom during a rather sunny day that Simon had dedicated to horse racing, she hit it too high.

The ball ended up stuck in the black round pipe of the garage that was on the other side of the garden. Simon ignored her calls and desperately wanting her ball back, Tammy decided to climb onto the pipe.

She used the glass greenhouse that was home to plants, amongst other things, to support her weight.
She successfully managed to retrieve her ball and threw it onto the ground below her. Unfortunately, on her way back down, Tammy fell off the pipe and into the greenhouse.

The neighbour saw from his kitchen window and marched downstairs. Whilst Tammy lay bruised and bleeding in agony, the neighbour berated her for ruining his plants.
When Tammy told Simon of her fall, he didn’t pay any attention, merely telling Tammy not to block the TV. Tammy trudged off to the bedroom in search of a first aid kit to clear her cuts up, not sure why she’d expected anything else.

If it came to confrontation, or accepting any form of responsibility, Simon hid behind someone else to win the fight.

He’d done it since he was a child, where Uncle Billy would fight his battles. Sometimes Tammy even stepped in, ordering the person to back off and leave her dad alone. Yet when it came to old boys threatening to take Tammy’s sweet money? Simon walked away.

His only interest was in horse racing, gambling money he didn’t have and working all the shifts he could get to pay his mountain of debts.

In Primary School, Tammy joined the girl’s football team, partially because of how much she loved football, and to please him.

In that sense, it worked. When she visited his flat at the weekend, instead of being glued to the horse racing channel, he took her for a kick-about atop the local hill. It was peaceful with the sun shining through the blue skies. River was flowing beside them as they made their way up. Lying on the moist, freshly cut grass and staring at the sky took Tammy to a new place of tranquillity. Tammy stood in between their coats making up goal posts, Simon taught her different techniques and reflexes.

As soon as something more interesting came along however, Tammy didn’t exist.

Tammy was always perplexed over what about her dad women found attractive.

He was in his 40’s but looked to be 60. His short black hair had ceased to exist over the years, with no amount of hair products able to stave off the baldness forever. He refused to regularly shave, leaving a grey tussle on his face. His mouth was made up of false teeth, he took great delight with keeping by Tammy’s bedside and frightening the crap out of her on awaking. He didn’t keep himself in shape at all, growing quite the beer belly over the years, which his love of red meat and out of date food didn’t help with. He was extremely unhygienic, often making Tammy gag.

Simon made the move to Morpington 6 months before them. Tammy and Natalie stayed at his flat in Hykers Green for the weekend, so Tammy could attend a School Interview. It was just up the road from the Fields, tram stop on the street below and bus links to the School 20 minutes away.

On the Monday, Tammy and Natalie made their way down the windy Beacon’s-Mill-Road to Hayton’s Road where they caught the 77 bus.

Tammy could see why the school was so eager for new students. Even from a distance, it had the look and feel of a prison.

Suddenly Tammy was feeling as if her current school wasn’t so bad.

The first thing that caught Tammy’s eye about Morpington School for Girls was the lights. Tall green street lights that loomed over the school.
Then there were the large overgrown trees. They covered the near right of the school, next to the steel green gate that separated the school from the field. It hid part of the corner from plain sight and had a murky feeling to it.

The rear part of the school that accompanied that area didn’t help. The window panelling was white, but you couldn’t see in or out of the windows. Only small clusters of chatter let you know the people inside were alive and well. The bricks were a horrible brown colour, which matched the school’s dated feel.
The forest at the back of the school, under the grey clouds, made Tammy feel rather fearful.

That wasn’t improved when they reached the school’s main entrance, a green steel gate.

There were no security guards checking personnel. No adviser waiting to greet you and escort you to reception.

Just a small open green space with a set of wooden benches, overgrown trees, and steel green gates running along the front side of the school. Definitely like a prison.

On Natalie and Tammy’s arrival, the receptionist was quick on her windows 95 computer, with the brick screen sitting atop the wall beside her. She looked to be in her 50’s and was dressed in a plain uniform made up of a white shirt, black skirts, boots to match, and as if she’d been in the job 20yrs too long. Like the main corridor, the walls were covered in notices about the school, various trophies, school uniform and safety information.

Students continued to pour into the front of the school’s ground, some passing the reception on their way to class, Tammy looked out a them petrified.
“Tammy!” Natalie hissed breaking Tammy out of her daydream “Over here!” Natalie barked.

The Principal stood in the doorway that connected the reception with the School’s main corridor. He looked to be a pleasant enough man. Tammy guessed him to be in his 40’s, most of his hair gone leaving behind the old grey one, round spec glasses, and the standard Principal dress code of a grey suit with black shoes.

“I hope you didn’t have any trouble getting here” The Principal politely enough said to Natalie as Tammy made her way over to him “Not at all” Natalie politely replied and sat down on the chair.

“Right then” the Principal charmingly rubbed his hands together to relax the scared expression on Tammy’s face as she stood beside him, hands in her pocket and eyes glued to the floor “Let’s get going!” the Principal excitedly finished. It wasn’t reciprocated by Tammy.

The corridor was empty with everyone thankfully at registration. The left of the corridor had 2 workshop classes next to each other, cooking and wood-shop, and a Chemistry class. Opposite them on the right were large windows, looking out onto wooden benches, the rear courtyard and the field. There were a few trees and grass hill running down beside the left side of the school building. Looking closely at the field, Tammy noticed the green steel gates were broken up by a railing that had a small keyhole. Tammy guessed the school used the field as part of sports day, considering how small the gym appeared.

At the end of the corridor lay the library, a small set of stone stairs which led to the rear door, corridor and through a set of wooden brown doors, the stone staircase that took you upstairs.
With no windows down this side of the corridor, the only light that broke off from the marble walls were led tube lights.

Judging by the security detectors in the doorway, Tammy guessed the library had a problem with books being stolen.

Tammy sat at one of the tables at the back of the library. The Principal took Maths and English papers from the reception and handed them to Tammy, along with a pen and pencil. He explained she had two hours to take the tests and then he’d be back for her.

Occasionally girls walked into the library, but Tammy tried to ignore their presence. She breezed through the English paper and did her usual guess the answer when it came to Maths.

She figured numbers was a game of probability; why stress when you could write the first number that popped up in your head? It’d worked on previous tests, though her Teachers were never impressed.

The Principal gave Tammy a tour of the School and grounds. He reasoned that knowing where everything was before she properly joined, would make the experience less intimidating.

It had the opposite effect.

Every time the Principal opened the classroom doors, everyone fell silent, all eyes on Tammy as the Principal explained she would be joining the school in September. Tammy weakly smiled politely, feeling their eyes burning into her soul.
Tammy was glad when the time came to re-join Natalie in the reception and leave. That was soon replaced by crippling pain, as Natalie informed her it was now time to tell Sonia and Kristie her news.

Tammy had known this was coming. It wasn’t like she could just disappear into thin air, and casually call to say she’d gone, though the thought had occurred.
Over the next month, Natalie and Phil made arrangements with the removal company, using the same one as Simon, collected boxes from local shops and packed the house up.

On the second to last day of term, Tammy walked out of Spanish class to be greeted by the extremely unexpected sight of Lorraine, leant up against the wall. Tammy looked sideways at the other students passing her, assuming that Lorraine would call one of them out the crowd to join her.
She didn’t.

The corridor quietened, Lorraine saw Tammy, rooted to the spot by the Spanish class opposite her and approached her.
Tammy desperately wanted to run out of one of the side doors, or down one of the corridors to freedom. People who could act as eyewitnesses, not that it’d ever stopped Lorraine before.

No matter how happy she was in her friendship with Kristie and Sonia, and the confidence that’d given her to no longer fear the school gates, every time she came across Lorraine she wanted to bolt.

“Can we talk?” Lorraine asked in a friendly tone that completely took Tammy by surprise “Fine, I guess” Tammy mumbled unsure hands rooted to her pocket “But this better be quick. Kristie and Son know I’m always first out of class, they’ll be wondering where I am soon” Tammy warned.

She wanted Lorraine to know she had people at school now who cared about her and her wellbeing. That she couldn’t take Tammy round the back of the Library, and beat her until her mood subsided, because no-one noticed if Tammy was running late.

Tammy and Lorraine walked to the end of the corridor and onto the North Wing of the school.

Lorraine opened the door to the nearest stairwell and held her hand out for Tammy to lead the way. Not in the mood to walk up more stairs, Tammy walked down the stairs to the basement. There she turned back to a following Lorraine, several thoughts going through her head.

“So” Tammy commented with beading eyes “What do you want?” Tammy asked with an air of irritation.

“To apologise” Lorraine answered eyes squared to the floor. Tammy couldn’t do anything except chuckle with disbelief.

“Are we seriously doing this again?” Tammy angrily queried at a loss “I told you last time; I’m not interested and there’s nothing you can do or say that’ll make me be your friend again” Tammy reiterated looking Lorraine square in the face “You didn’t just make me feel like my life wasn’t worth living, you encouraged me to kill myself and attempted to kill me” Tammy reminded Lorraine and she shot up in anger at the accusation.

“How many times do I have to tell you what happened in the pool was a mistake?” Lorraine snapped and Tammy stepped back away from her cautiously “I thought you’d be able to grab hold of the panel” Lorraine insisted.

“You know I can’t swim well!” Tammy raged “I was screaming for help and what did you guys do?” Tammy put her hands in the air tearful as the memory swept over her “Stood back, laughing, enjoying the party. If Miss hadn’t come along when she did, I would’ve died” Tammy grudgingly spat.
“I wouldn’t have let that happen” Lorraine vehemently claimed.

Tammy didn’t believe a word of it.

“I’m really trying to change this time” Lorraine said with all the sincerity she could muster “Get better. Deal with things, instead of taking them out on everyone” Lorraine continued, inching ever closer to Tammy.

Rejecting Lorraine’s efforts, Tammy brushed past her and walked to the top of the stairwell, stopping by the door.
Tammy looked back, Lorraine stood on the spot, watching Tammy’s every move tinged with regret.

“Yeah” Tammy took great joy in rubbing in “This is what you’ve done to me” Tammy finished with a quiver and Lorraine walked back up the stairs to her.
“I am sorry Tam” Lorraine replied desperate for Tammy to believe her “An I know it’s a lot to ask” Lorraine acknowledged “But do you ever think you can forgive me?” Lorraine asked with hopeful eyes which Tammy greeted with stone cold eyes “You’re right, it is” Tammy spitefully answered.
Downhearted by Tammy’s reply and general cold attitude towards her, Lorraine shook her head in acceptance and opened the door to the corridor.

Tammy immediately put her hand on Lorraine’s to stop her walking away.

“Why do you want my forgiveness so badly?” Tammy was dying to know and Lorraine looked at her deep in thought.
“I’ve hurt a lot of people” Lorraine admitted “I don’t mean it” Lorraine added and looked to the floor ashamed “But the things I’ve done to you?” Lorraine shook her head sickened by her actions “I can’t” Lorraine defiantly looked up refusing to allow her head to go back there.
Tammy was pleased to see Lorraine had found her conscience again, even if it was too late for her
“My Counsellor says if I want to get better, I have to start by acknowledging the worst in myself” Lorraine explained straightening herself back up.
“I’m gonna try not to take that offensively, and concentrate on the fact you’re seeing a Counsellor again” Tammy replied opting to take the high road “After last time, I thought you’d given up completely” Tammy murmured.
“Realized I couldn’t go on the way I was, so I started again a few weeks ago” Lorraine revealed “I’m pleased for you” Tammy genuinely replied impressed by Lorraine’s determination.
“Just one step” Lorraine dismissed, refusing to give herself credit, “I’m not expecting us to be friends again. I don’t want you to forget everything that’s happened” Lorraine stated matter of fact “I just needed you to know I’m sorry and trying to change” Lorraine finished, back to her normal chill self.

Tammy cut through the back streets on her way home. She stopped at the park by her old Primary School, and sat on a bench until sunset. Walked along David’s Road passing the Estate’s that’d been so familiar to her such a short time ago, and made her way up William Street onto St David’s Road. Passed the convenience store which had been a regular haunt of hers since she was 5 years old, and the newsagent she used to get the early morning paper, or milk, for mum from.

Tammy came to a stop at the top of the Mews exhausted. Putting her key in the black front door, Tammy turned it and the door opened, boxes greeting everywhere Tammy’s eyes laid.

From the living room, Phil asked Tammy if she was alright, and said that Natalie was in the bedroom.

Tammy didn’t issue a response, instead dragging her legs up the stairs to pass out in her half packed room.