PLASTICGIRL, flash fiction by Andy Houstoun at



written by: Andy Houstoun



Her dark green eyes show no emotion; they just stare. She pulls her thick blond hair away from her face and ties it to one side. Dressed in an oversized shirt with an image of Frida Kahlo’s face plastered over the front, she puts her hand on her hip, her fingers moving to her waist, revealing more of her leggings and strong thighs.

“Sadie?” I whisper to myself as I approach.

She stands outside a garden fence at the top of the field. I’ve wandered across meadows of wheat on the edge of the Devon coastline to get here. The golden panicles sway in the warm wind as I look towards the sea on my left and then back again.

She steps towards me. It might be Sadie but I can’t be sure.

Sadie O’Connell was a regular on the Birmingham music scene in the ’90s. She had a loyal following and was tipped to be the next big thing, following Oasis, Blur, and the rest of the Britpop explosion. I wrote for the West Midlands music magazine, Brum Beat, at the time. The editor asked me to review of Sadie’s gig at Club Katuski and see if I could get an interview. I was told it was unlikely because she didn’t like them but that made me more determined.

Club Katuski hosted two acts a night. ‘Dead On It,’ the support band, delivered a pounding set of indie guitar pop. Fronted by Simon Lush in a hot-pink shirt with long pointed collars protruding over his grey overcoat, I could see them getting signed soon. They performed catchy memorable songs with energy and passion.

Half an hour later, a drummer with a Morrissey quiff sat behind the kit. He tapped out a tight rhythm that grabbed the attention of the audience. A seventeen stone man with shoulder-length dreadlocks carried a double bass onto the stage and joined the rhythm with a funky jazz groove. A guitar-player wearing corduroy white flares and a tight t-shirt, nonchalantly stepped onto the stage and played distorted tremolo guitar. They created a beautiful ethereal sound.

Then the voice began. I couldn’t see where it came from. The room filled with a haunting female vocal and the audience went silent. Sadie stood up from a table near the front of the room clutching a microphone, and wandered onto the stage. Wearing a beige v-neck jumper over her full figure; her head a mess of blond hair, she faced the audience and gradually increased the volume before launching into a huge vocal performance that had everyone transfixed.

After her set, she went to the bar and ordered a drink. I stood next to her and she downed a shot and walked off. Vanilla perfume hung in the air and a notebook lay on the beermat. I called out for her to come back but by that point it was too late. She strolled past the pub window and up Alcester Road.

A metal clasp held the gold cover together, and printed patterns lined the edge of the pages. I undid the clasp, and the pages flared open to reveal hand-written poems:


A dig at the commercialism of female sexuality.


I recognised the words. They were used in what became her most well-known song – ‘PLASTICGIRL’.

I read further:

Know it all
Rat tails
Go on the Cambridge diet
Yellow teeth
Go shag a donkey

I flicked through to the back and found pencil-drawings of sparrows and more words:

Behold the birds of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

The book intrigued me. Troubled, sardonic poetry and vulnerable hopeful spirituality. Sadie fascinated me.

I approach the woman by the garden fence. She puts her other hand on her hip but I’m unable to read her expression.

“I’m not interested.” I recognise her Irish lilt and hear the vulnerability.


A quizzical expression crosses her face and then her eyes widen.

It’s understandable why she may be shocked at my presence.

After finding her book, I brought it to her next gig. That night, she performed in a flamboyant white wedding dress. Her glorious performance made her the talk of the music scene in Birmingham. I was also dressed in eccentric clothing that evening – an electric-blue velvet suit that I bought in a vintage clothes shop. When I approached her after the gig, the bass player said we looked like a bride and groom. I returned her book and we clicked straight away. She didn’t seem bothered that I was a music journalist and offered me her first interview. ‘Part 1,’ she called it, suggesting there might be more.

When the pub closed, she invited me to a house-party in Moseley and we continued talking into the early hours. We sat in the back garden sharing a bottle of Glenlivet until the sun came up. We spent the following two weeks with each other every day, and I proposed at the end of the second weekend. The next day, her band members tied tin cans to the back of my cream Beetle and we headed for Gretna Green; Sadie in her wedding dress, and me in my velvet suit.

We persuaded two surprised people from the street outside to be our witnesses and giggled our way through a ‘marriage by declaration.’ Our honeymoon was a two-day road trip around the Lowlands before Sadie went off on an American tour.

“Franki?” Tears well up in her eyes. “What are you doing here?”

What was I doing here? I hadn’t seen her in nine years.

Her American tour was a disaster. On her first night, she collapsed on stage. Soon after, I heard she checked into rehab and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. I spent months trying to track her down, but got nowhere.

Then last month, the editor of Brum Beat called:

“Franki? I’ll understand if you’re not interested, but I want to give you first scoop on a feature about Sadie O’Connell. There’s a resurgence of interest in Britpop at the moment and I want to see if we can get an interview with her. She was the best thing to come out of Birmingham. Brum’s greatest singer who never made it.”

“Sadie? She’s still alive?”

“Apparently so. I’ve got a potential address. I’m not a hundred percent sure if it’s legit but I think it might be.”

“How are you Sadie?”


She opens the gate. “Come in.”

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