Janet H Swinney on The Reading Life
Website of Janet H Swinney
Website of Janet H Swinney
“A Tadge to Your Left” is the sixth short story by Janet H Swinney to be featured on The Reading Life. My posting on so many stories is the result of the high esteem I hold for her work. Her stories range in setting from Indian to England. (All of the stories I have featured can be read online, just go to my link above.)
“A Tadge to Your Left” tells two stories, in alternating paragraphs, a very interesting technique. We first meet Hooter, a man teaching biology in an English High School. Here is our introduction to him:
“He wasn’t an old man, but he wasn’t fanciable either. There wasn’t one of them who would have volunteered to have anything to do with him. Chalky, the Maths teacher, on the other hand, or Blinker who taught music…
he was about thirty or forty. Neat, innocuous, straight up and down. Shit coloured trousers and a snot-green shirt. Spectacles that sat at the top of a long nose that he blew frequently on a khaki handkerchief. A wide, formless mouth with a moist lower lip. Straps of oily, no-colour hair plastered across the top of his head. Sometimes he wore a lab coat that made him look like a storeman in the Co-op. He’d only been there a couple of weeks when he got his nickname – Hooter.”
Our second character is Derek, a factory worker:
“She stirred in her bed. It was only Derek. Home late after a long shift at the Caterpillar factory.”
We learn a lot about their very different sex lives.
I really do not want to give much detail of the plot involving Hooter. He is a thoroughly nasty man who preys on his female students. Once you realize what the title denotes you will feel a mixture of laughter and disgust. Swinney does a great job presenting him and the atmosphere of the school.
In the thread of narrative on Derek we see a young couple in a financial struggle, wondering if they should have their first baby.
For sure “A tadge to Your Left” was a lot of fun to read.
Maybe the common thread is both men are frustrated sexually, maybe Derek will remain a wage slave and Hooter wind up in prison. Their
lives are dominated by their feelings toward women. I can see a connection to the kind of schooling they probably had.
I look forward to following Janet H Swinney for many years.
About the author
Janet H Swinney was born and grew up in the North East of England, got her political education in Scotland and now lives in London. She also has roots in India, and her experience of life there has influenced her work.
Ten of her stories have appeared in print anthologies. The Map of Bihar was published both in the UK (Earlyworks Press) and in the USA (Hopewell Publications), where it appeared in ‘Best New Writing 2013’ and was nominated for the Eric Hoffer prize for prose. The Work of Lesser-Known Artists was a runner-up in the London Short Story Competition 2014, and appeared in ‘Flamingo Land’ (Flight Press, 2015). The Queen of Campbeltown appeared in ‘The Ball of the Future’ (Earlyworks Press 2016).
Several of her stories have been published by online literary journals, including the Bombay Literary Magazine, Out of Print, Joao Roque and the Indian Review.
Janet has had commendations and listings in the Fish International and Fabula Press Nivalis competitions, among others. A Tadge to Your Left was shortlisted in the Ilkley Literature Festival 2017. She is currently working on a play based on the stories of the Indo-Pakistani author, Saadat Hasan Manto. When she isn’t writing, she teaches yoga.