Caitlin Moran is dangling a black bra from her arm with glee as she points out of the window at a Casino, “That’s where I gobbed off fat Tommy,” she says into a microphone. “I learnt a lesson that day. You can’t get the love of your life by gobbing off his best friend.”
I’m on a coach tour of Wolverhampton with star columnist and author Caitlin as the guide, and she’s just announced that her sister Caroline (Caz) has taken off her bra “because it’s more comfy”. Just in case we don’t believe her, she’s displayed said underwear to the entire coach-full of actors, crew and journalists.
This is the press launch for Caitlin and Caz’s new Midlands-set sitcom, Raised by Wolves, a show based on the duo’s own warm and chaotic childhood in a Wolverhampton council house with their six siblings.
“We’re not Northern twats, we’re not Southern twats, we’re Midlands twats” says mum Della in the first episode of the Channel 4 show. And that’s very much the spirit of today’s rather surreal trip down writer Caitlin’s funny, filthy memory lane.
As we sit on the coach eating packets of Channel 4-provided Walkers crisps like schoolchildren on a very unusual field trip, Caitlin— who now lives in North London’s middle class Crouch End— stands at the front with a microphone reeling off personal tales of the city in which she grew up.
For example, that red-brick Rubicon Casino where Fat Tommy had his fun, used to be the Dorchester nightclub and features in the final episode of the sitcom. According to Caitlin, it’s “the finest nightclub in all of the Midlands” and it’s there that the show’s precocious, boy-obsessed Germaine, based on Caitlin’s teenage self, discovers that kissing boys is actually pretty easy.
We’re barely into the centre of Wolvo (that’s what proper Midlands people call it, we’re told) before Caitlin, still in her furry leopard print coat, informs us that we’re approaching the place she started her first period; Central Library. “It happened as I was walking around with my dad, and I had to hide behind a rotating rack of of Ruth Rendell paperbacks.”
Not many people would stand in front of twenty plus strangers- men, women and even a small child- and casually talk about their first experience of menstruation. When asked about very un-British desire to talk about embarrassing things, Caitlin says, “ I’ve never seen a taboo that I didn’t want drag in the light.” And that attitude clearly inspires some of the best moments in Raised by Wolves, like when mum Della tells her daughter, “Nobody wants to be a woman, but men are too chicken shit to deal with it.”
And Caitlin’s love of taboo-breaking, along with hard graft and writing talent, is why at only 39 years old, she has two columns in The Times, three bestselling books, a comedy tour, two screenplays-in-progress and now a sitcom under her belt.
When I interviewed her a year ago, Caitlin said: “My friend, Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies, gave me a brilliant bit of advice— when you get hot, there’s a year where you can get anything off the ground, and even though it will kill you, just sign those contracts because in two years time you might not be as hot and it’ll be 10 times harder”. And it’s clear that Raised by Wolves, a six-part show for Channel 4, has been born of this full-throttle approach.
But today, Caitlin’s main aim is to show us that Wolvo is not worthy of all the mocking it gets. She says that its bad press is down to the fact that it was the first place Queen Victoria visited after she’d been in mourning for Prince Albert. When she took train from London and got into the city, she asked her people to draw the curtains because it was too depressing. Whether it was grief or Wolverhampton that did it, the reputation has stuck.
Now well and truly in the Wolvo city centre, we pass Blunts shoes, Pets and Patios and JC’s hair (or Jesus Christ’s hair, as our tour guide calls it), all of which spark off-the-cuff memories for Caitlin about puberty, drinking and boys. Of all the Black Country I’ve seen so far, which is admittedly very little, I feel most drawn to the Hells Angels headquarters where there’s a huge ‘welcome’ sign and a basketball net. “I like the idea of Hells Angels playing ball while smoking their crack,” says Caitlin to her giggling audience.