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The Blackbird


‘Hi you’re here with Melissa Sykes and this is another episode of Business Bitches where I interview some of the worlds leading ladies in business, commerce, art and culture.

Last week you heard all about the world of high-end fashion from top designer EMI, so if you missed it remember you can listen to it on Podblast or wherever you find your listening pleasure. Tonight we have an incredible show for you guys, this mistress of mystery has managed blow up the jewellery industry in the last two years and has become one of the wealthiest independent business owners in the country. And so far has evaded all interviews. But that ends tonight! We are so pleased to be joined by the renowned and extremely elusive CEO and founder of Redgrave Jewels, Robyn Redgrave.

Robyn, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s a pleasure to meet you at last’.


‘Thanks so much for having me, I’m a great fan of the show. And we’ve met already, do you remember, at that Ornithological Society gala last year?’


‘Oh of course! What a wonderful night that was. Well, it’s an honour to have you here, artist, designer, CEO and philanthropist; Robyn we are so excited to have nabbed this exclusive with you. As I’m sure know all know by now, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock; Redgrave Jewels is one of the hottest and most successful jewellery designers on the planet right now. Known for their trademark blood red jewels and monstrously magnificent designs, they are kicking ass and taking names. A little birdy told me you’re now rivalling Cartier and Hermés in sales last year. That’s very impressive.To what do you attribute your success?’


‘I wouldn’t put it down to just one thing, it takes a multitude of skills to make it in any industry these days, but I’d give a lot of the credit to my grandmother and my upbringing in County Cavan.’


‘You can definitely see a Celtic Irish influence to your pieces, especially in your latest collection; Claw. For anyone out there still to see this incredible collection you can check out the link in the episode description. I think it’s fair to say there’s a particular darkness and gothic quality to your designs, which I love! But you’d never guess that such a twisted imagination would come from someone in a crisp white linen suit and bright yellow Jimmy Choos.


Robyn chuckles.

‘ I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a healthy dose of the macabre, and I think my customers would agree with me. Our ruby encrusted bleeding heart was our bestseller last year and our Slasher series has completely sold out.’


‘For our listeners the Slasher series included cut throat chokers, open wound bracelets and even a body harness that imitated being dissected. They’ve blown up on socials but have received a lot of criticism for being in bad taste and I think even the word grotesque has been used.’

‘ Oh yes, the body harness was inspired by the Cenobytes in Hell Raiser. I have no problem with the word grotesque, I take it as a compliment. Much like Clive Barker. Being in bad taste obviously sells, even the most tasteless sight can be made glamorous when it’s dripping in jewels. Just ask the Kardashians.’


‘Bit harsh on the Kardashians! A lot of our listeners would be KUWTK fans.’


‘Not at all. Three of them wore our designs in the last month. We’re creating a custom piece for Kim as we speak’.


‘I stand corrected. Let’s get down to Business! Here at Business Bitches we want to learn about the ladies behind the labels. We like to dig deep into some of the most influential minds to find out where it all began, where they find their inspiration and teach us the secret to their success. So tell us Robyn. Where did it all begin and what is the secret to the success of Redgrave Jewels?’


‘Well Melissa, I’m happy to dig deep for your listeners. But be warned, it might get a bit dark.’


‘I’d expect nothing less.’


‘My Mother died when I was ten and I never knew my Dad, so I was sent to live with my Grandmother in the countryside. She lived in an old stone cottage with a withering thatch roof, the kind you see in postcards but more run down. Her cottage was surrounded by wildflower meadows and fields of sheep and there were no neighbours for miles. Up until then I had been brought up in a town with the hustle and bustle of people and cars outside the window of our tiny flat. My Mother had little time for me and always seemed to be out partying, so I was used to being alone. She didn’t get on with my Grandmother and though I’d met her once or twice but she was still a stranger to me. She only ever referred to her as ‘that old hag’ and would joke about what she’s do with all her money when she died. She wasn’t a nice person.’


‘That must have been very tough for you, being so young’.


‘I didn’t know any better.

I remember some distant cousin drove me to her house and dropped my off on the doorstep like an unwanted kitten. A small pink rucksack by my side held everything I owned in the world.

My Grandmother opened the wooden door and scooped me up in the most reassuring hug I’d ever felt and bundled me inside. ‘There, there’ she said rubbing my back. ‘You’re safe with me now.’

She sat me by the fire with a mug of cocoa and tutted at my dirty clothes and grimy skin. She had a jolly face and long white hair pulled into a mighty bun that sat atop her head like a nest. She almost always wore wellies and an oversized wooly cardigan that came down to her knees and that’s how I picture her now. That woman showed me more love in those first ten minutes than I had ever felt in my miserable life before.

I still have her cardigan.’


‘That’s so touching. I’d do anything for my Grandma. And listeners if it sounds like I’m getting choked up here it’s because I am. Please go on Robyn.’


'Would you like a tissue?’

‘How unprofessional! Ha! No I’m fine, honestly. Please continue.’


‘No problem. My Grandmother quickly set about placing my meagre possessions in my small room, just a few books, a one eyed teddy and two sets of clothes I’d already grown out of. ‘This won’t do’ she said more to herself. ‘This won’t do at all.’ She glanced back at me as I stood awkwardly in the doorway half waiting to be punished for something. She walked past me and disappeared for a few minutes before returning with a pile of folded clothes and took my hand. ’Come along now pet, let’s get you fixed up.’ She led me to a pink tiled room with a steaming bath that smelled of roses. She carefully stripped me of my grubby clothes before sitting me down in the scented water to wash my hair and scrub away the filth of my past life. I had never felt so content. After the water grew murky she dried me off in towels made of clouds and dressed me in soft faded pyjamas.

‘These were your mothers.’ she said cheerfully. ‘But we’ll have to get you some new clothes for school next week.’

‘Thanks Granny.’ I mumbled. I looked up at her and I saw a tear glint in the corner of her eye.


That initial week went by in a flurry of firsts. My first trip to buy clothes from a shop that only sold things that had never been worn, my first time collecting eggs from real chickens and my first taste of home cooked food and freshly baked bread.

My Granny laughed when I asked her ‘what is that?’ pointing at this weird meaty thing that looked like a comma. ‘That’s a lamb chop, pet. It’s delicious!’ She was right. Sometimes she laughed at these questions but I could sense an air of sadness behind her smiles.

Do you guys call them lamb chops over here? Nevermind.


She had ten chickens who wandered the yard by day and an old rooster named Henry who woke us up every morning. The only other person we saw was the milkman, an ageing man with sagging jowls who once yelled at my Granny for not having enough money for her bill. Apart from that it was just the two of us.


She let me roam around her garden and the fields beyond as long as I didn’t go past the stone walls the lined her property. I’d lie in the field picking flowers, try to catch crickets in the grass or chat to the birds that came to visit her feeder. I’d never been surrounded by so much life. These days were idyllic until the morning I started school.’


‘That sounds so beautiful, definitely a far cry from growing up in the big city. Oh and yes we call them lamb chops here too. Please go on’.


‘ My grandmother had bought me a new uniform but it was scratchy and I had to wear a skirt that made me squirm. She laughed at my obvious discomfort but reassured me I’d make lots of friends and have a great time. ‘We’ve been in this town for centuries pet, everyone’s going to want to be your friend’. I wanted to believe her.


The bus collected me from the gate and I waved to her from the window, wishing I could be back in the fields with the buzz of nature. My new teachers were all nice and polite, completely unlike the tired overworked teachers I’d had before who never remembered my name. I was introduced to my new class of blank faces by the head teacher Mr. McKeown. ‘Everyone, this is your new classmate Robyn. I want you all to make her feel welcome.’ A murmur of sniggers rippled through the class as you’d expect at the entry of a new student. I was directed to sit at the front of the room next to a red haired boy called Pat who took little notice of my presence.

The morning past by quickly, I had a bit of catching up to do but my teachers assured me I’d make it up in no time. Then came lunchtime. All my classmates hurried excitedly into the yard to play games and chase each other around. I hesitantly made my way to a far corner to sit on a bench and eat my lunch without attracting any attention. It didn’t work.’


‘Oh no! Listeners, if you’re feeling sensitive today then now might be a good time to grab a coffee. I’ve a feeling things are about to get hard to hear.’


‘They might indeed. Halfway through my ham sandwich this stocky girl and her posse came striding over to me with looks of brutish contempt. I recognised her as Deirdre from my class, she was a foot taller than me and was already built like a brick shit-house as my Dad used to say. ‘Hey new girl, aren’t you going to share your lunch with us?’ she smirked. I tried to stay calm and silently held out the remainders of my lunchbox. The girls giggled.


Deirdre feigned a look of pure innocence as she took the lunchbox from my outstretched hand and stared inside. All that was left was an apple and a bourbon biscuit my granny had made as a treat. ‘Eww!’ she cried. ‘I wouldn’t eat food from some dirty prossy! We heard your Mum was a prossy and your Da was her pimp and you were born in the gutter! That’s what my Dad says.’ I had no idea what a prossy or a pimp was but it didn’t sound nice. The other girls shrieked with laughter as Deirdre flung my lunchbox in the ditch behind me and roughly pushed me off the bench. I was totally unprepared and hit the ground hard, grazing my elbows and whacking my head of the tarmac.

‘Hey you, what are you girls doing there, get away you little brats!’ a voice yelled and I saw Mr.McKeown come jogging over from the other side of the yard. ‘Deirdre Boyle you go straight to the principles office before I have your hide! You girls get inside before I send you to Mrs.Finnegan too!’ ‘We were just playing,’ Deirdre pouted innocently.

‘Get inside now.’ he fumed. I had managed to crawl back onto my hands and knees as the girls marched back inside giggling to each other.

‘Don’t mind them. Are you alright?’ he asked helping me to my feet. My cheeks flushed and my eyes stung with tears as I rubbed the back of my head. ‘Umhmm’ I mumbled. He fished my lunchbox out of the ditch and led me inside to the nurse. She made a fuss and put bandages on my elbows with little birds on them. ‘Not the best first day for ya was it hun? You don’t mind those girls’ she said sweetly giving me a lollypop. ‘Now you save that for later and don’t tell anyone I gave it to ya’ she said producing the blood red lolly. I smiled and thanked her before walking away.


When I got back to class someone had crudely drawn a rat with long hair on the blackboard with Robyn Eats Shit scrawled in huge letters. The whole class erupted in laughter as I stepped through the door and I felt my cheeks burn crimson once again. Deirdre sat triumphantly at the back of the class laughing and pointing. I wanted the earth to swallow my up forever. Once our Maths teacher arrived he glared at the class and rubbed it off. ‘I don’t want any of that in my class you understand?’ he said. ‘Yes Mr.O’Brien’ they chanted. I couldn’t pay attention the rest of the day. My silent melancholy was only interrupted by the occasional spitball hitting my bruised head from somewhere behind me, followed by more sniggers.’

‘Kids can be so cruel. Listeners if you’re just joining us now, where have you been? We’re here in studio with the magnificent Robyn Redgrave of Redgrave Jewels and she is giving us her incredible backstory so stay tuned and don’t miss a thing. The first day at a new school is difficult for any kid, as I’ sure many of our listeners would agree. What happened next?


‘Once school was over I rushed to put away my things and get out of the building before I could be tormented any more. I ran to the bus and cowered inside, imagining all the horrible things I would do to Deirdre if given the chance. I pictured cutting off her ponytail and shoving it in her mouth, I pictured punching her round face till my knuckles bled and dumping a wheelbarrow full of manure over her head while the whole school laughed. These thoughts circled my head until finally it was my stop and I clambered off the bus to the safety of the cottage. My grandmother was waiting to welcome me at the door. ‘How was your first day dear, did you make any new friends?’


At this I just burst into tears and flung my bag by the door before running into the back garden. I sat on a log by the vegetable patch and cried. Fat, heavy tears dripped onto the soil and the taste of salt filled my mouth. I cried for my hateful parents, I cried for my sore head and bruised ego but most of all I cried for the overwhelming sense of powerlessness I felt in the face of such humiliation. My ten year old body shook with rage and self pity, my ribs ached and my breath came in short gasps. Just when I felt the tears would never end I heard the set sound of birdsong to my right and looked up to see a blackbird singing cheerily on the log next to me.

It cocked its head at me as it sang a hopeful tune, its beak red with freshly mushed berries from a nearby bush. A final hot tear streaked my face and it hopped a little closer.

Distracted from my woe I was contemplating reaching out my hand to pet it when it made a little garbling movement with it’s throat mid-tune and spat out a shiny red seed on the log by my hand. I looked down at the seed and again at the Blackbird. It met my gaze and cocked its head again before ruffling its wings and flew away singing.

I looked down at the glittering seed and picked it up between my fingers, it looked like a jewel.’


‘How magical! I didn’t know birds did that. And so precious that you thought it was a little jewel.’


‘Look it up, there are tons of videos online. Birds generally regurgitate food for their young but they also spit up seeds and particulate matter that they can’t digest. This little Blackbird spat out what I thought was a seed. I picked it up and rubbed it between my fingers until it shone. It really looked like a little jewel.

I ran into my Grandmother in the kitchen.’ Granny, look what the Blackbird gave me!’ I cried.

My Granny looked up from the boiling pot of broth with a smile. ‘Let’s have a look then love’ she said, wiping the steam from her glasses and putting out her hand. I dropped the tiny red pellet into her palm. ‘What have you got here?’ She pinched the little seed and held it up against the light of the window. ‘And the Blackbird gave this to you, you say’. She said turning to face me again.

‘It did, I swear! It dropped it right next to me’.

‘Funny things birds’. She said, staring again at the little gem.

‘You hold onto that tight, it’s a little treasure just like you, so keep it extra safe.’ She dropped it into my hand and I made a fist around it.

‘I promise’.

I remember just staring at it or rolling it around in my hand constantly. Or feeling the little shape through the cloth of my pocket to make sure it was still there. I was floating on a cloud all evening as my Grandmother hummed and bustled around me. It was one of the best days of my life.


The next day I knew I shouldn’t bring it into school but I couldn’t stand the idea of leaving it at home. I imagined someone breaking in and taking it, or it rolling off the table and through a gap in the floorboards never to be seen again. So I brought it with me. Such a terrible mistake.’

‘Robyn, I really hate to interrupt you as I’m literally on the edge of my seat and close to tears here, and I’m sure our listeners are too with this truly heartbreaking story but we need to take a minute to listen to a word from our sponsors’.

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‘Big thanks to Midi-Canine for sponsoring this show. Now listeners you’re here with us in studio with the magnificent Robyn Redgrave and she is telling us the riveting tale of how she came to be the badass Business Bitch she is today. Robyn, my apologies for the interruption, you were about to tell us about bringing the jewel to school. Please continue.’


‘Thank you Melissa. The day started off fine, I managed to stay off the radar in most of my classes. That is until the bell for lunch rang. I knew I’d be a target again so I tried to find a hidden corner out of sight to eat my lunch. Bad move. I found a spot between two bushes at the side of the building, not too far as to get into trouble but tucked away enough that I hoped no one would find me.

I was halfway through my ham sandwich when a shadow fell across my lap. Deirdre Boyle again. ‘Found you shithead.’ Without warning she kicked the lunchbox off my lap and into my face. I bit my tongue hard as my lunch went sprawling over the pavement. I began to crawl away with the taste of blood in my mouth when that oaf of a girl stamped on my hand, hard.’


‘Oh my god, you poor thing!’


‘I felt something inside my hand crunch and yelped in pain. The two girls behind her giggled. I still, to this day, will never understand what those girls found so funny. I scrambled to my feet and tried to stumble away from the group. I patted my pocket with my good hand to try and find the reassuring shape. I couldn’t. I stuck my hand inside and fumbled around that lint filled corners of the lining, hoping to find it stuck inside. There it was, I felt the strong, smooth surface and let out a sigh.

‘What the hell are you doing weirdo? What’s that you have there, have you go a present for me?’

Her greasy face loomed over me and her breath smelt like stale Billy Roll. I think you call it Bologna here. I don’t know where I got the idea to do what I did next. I just felt instinctual. Like the right thing to do. I took my precious gem and rammed it down her throat, my little ten year old palm covering her mouth so she’d swallow. She screamed muffled words but I felt her swallow it down. Then I whispered in her ear; 'eat it you slapper’. It was out of character even for me, I still didn't know what it meant but hey, I was only ten.'




‘Deirdres eyes went wild as I released her from my grasp. She staggered a few steps backwards with a look of complete shock and bewilderment on her horrid face. She dropped to her knees and made a guttural sound like a Mongolian throat singer, far deeper than any child should be able to make. The two other twits gasped, they both stepped back in unison and then ran away at full sprint. I barely registered their exit. It all happened so quickly, yet I've watched it over and over in my mind ever since.


Deirdres head bent back suddenly with a crack. Two curved shapes like horns erupted from her face, viciously splitting through her lips like moist tissue. Her arms jerked forward as the skin tore open along each vein, like an invisible hand pulling the stitching loose on an old shirt. Dark oily feathers blossomed at each fresh opening, unfurling almost elegantly as her now useless skin slopped onto the pavement with a wet smack. Her legs shrivelled beneath her like old bent twigs, all before I even had time to gasp.


Blood, guts and putrescence rained for all of six seconds, until all that stood before me in a puddle of gore, was a blackbird. Just a small ordinary blackbird. It was actually pretty cute. It ruffled its feathers and hopped towards me. ‘Deirdre?’ I asked. It then raised its head and made a little gurgling gesture and regurgitated a little red gem at my feet. Then, with its job done, it flew up into a nearby branch to sing. I smiled.’




‘I kept waiting to get into trouble, but funny thing is, I never did. Everyone just seemed to forget Deirdre Boyle ever existed. Her posse just went on with their lives, and left me alone for the most part. I even made a few friends that first year. Everyone forgot, except my Grandmother and I. I told her the story of what happened that evening. She tutted and shook her head, but she was’t mad.

‘That Boyle girl, had it coming. Her Daddy is a piece of work too.’

‘Mr.Boyle the milkman?’ I asked.

‘Him in the same’ she said.

I put my hand in my pocket and placed the newest jewel on the table in front of her. She smirked.

‘Thanks dear, but we’ll save that one shall we?’

The next day we went to a friend of my Granny two towns over and priced our precious gem, it was worth a lot according to Granny. That evening when we got home there were two blackbirds waiting for me in the back garden. I guess you could say my empire started that day.’

‘Wow, that was an incredible story. Truly fantastical!  I can tell you really had a dark imagination even as a child. It would make a great book or film. Without all the blood and gore of course. Helen Mirren could play the Grandmother, and have you got a publisher already? You heard it here first folks! Oh, and if Deirdre was the second Blackbird who was the first?’


‘Ahem, Sorry I have to interrupt you there Melissa. I had a feeling you’d have trouble grasping what I’m saying. At the beginning of this interview you asked me about my secret to success, well I just told you. No fantasy, no novel, no Helen Mirren. Just my life.

‘I’m sorry, so you’re telling me that the secret to Redgrave Jewels’ success is a Blackbird?  You killed a child and that’s the secret to your success? You actually expect our listeners to believe that what you’re telling me is your authentic truth?’


‘Blackbirds plural. Yes.’


‘Look, I’m sorry but I can’t post this. My listeners want inspiration and backstory, not the ramblings of someone who just came to screw around. This is a serious journalistic show Miss Redgrave and I don’t know what you’re trying to pull here. What a waste of time. This interview is over. Honestly, I’d like you to leave.


‘You’re asking the wrong questions here Melissa, you’re not getting the point. I’ve listened to your show so I know you’re better than this. What you really need to be asking me, is why am I telling you all this now?’




‘As I said at the beginning, we’ve met before. Last November and the Ornithological Society gala dinner, where you proceeded to get drunk and criticise the whole night on social media. And when you finally left my assistant filmed you staggering out and slapping a pigeon out of your way. This video made it onto my desk where I have to say, I was extremely disappointed. Really Miss Sykes. A pigeon. As chair of the Ornithological Society you can imagine my perturbance at your act of cruelty. ‘


‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, it just flew up in my fa…hrmfffmmmmm’

‘That’s it, swallow it down. Attagirl. Now, how do I erase this thing?’



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