Friday, 6 January 2017

Where am I?

So, that was Christmas and what have you done? That's what John Lennon asked me (More or less) and the answer is not very much. This however does not mean I'm quitting, just that I had a lazy Christmas.

So chapter two of the book 'Back to Creative writing School' has another exercise to test me with. The chapters themselves are short and friendly things, they get you to the point of the exercise and get you writing with some clear advice that makes you feel that you want to use it right away. In this respect, it doesn't disappoint.

So, the exercise goes like this, write about where you are from the perspective of someone returning there after two very different experiences. Firstly, from the perspective of someone who was held here a prisoner and secondly as someone who took refuge from a mob here. You'll need to buy the book to read the excellent advice and confidence building words in the build-up to doing the exercise. Here goes.

I’m lead in over the too high threshold and stumble foolishly inside, room hurtling toward and around me like some vision of falling into a black hole. I steady myself, see the ordinary domestic scene and my stomach drops into its own black hole. Ordinary cooker, ordinary washing machine, ordinary fridge, ordinary fucking everything. I catch the edge of the table concentrate on the lines in its grain, for a moment I expect the man who lead me in to say something. As if it were a single emotion I’m dreading the intrusion and daring him to speak, I need to lash out at something but he gives me time and space and the moment passes. Heatless sunlight is reflected in from the high walls outside above a white sink that’s like something from a butcher’s shop. I edge around the table to my seat, the childlike sense of possession almost making me giggle irrationally.
‘This is it’ I say and I sit.
‘You sure?’
‘Of course I’m fucking sure.’
At this I stand to leave, I intend to walk out, don't look back, just go. I do look back, it just happens, I look back and see it is still a kitchen, only a kitchen. There is nothing to stop me and so I go.

My actual kitchen!

So, onto part two.

This is the best spot, just here by the bin and the old wood burner, you get a perfect view of the street here through the fragile glass door. Strange things locking glass doors, only secure because the taboos of normal society prevent smashing glass. Anyone living outside of those rules, a sociopath let’s say, would see only the goal of getting in and think nothing of breaking the flimsy barrier. Soft light illuminates the room from at setting sun and it is clear that this is a family kitchen. Cookbooks and apparatus adhere to the wall along the worktops ready to be thrown into the making of a hasty breakfast after a missed alarm. The table stands squarely in the centre, a keep in its castle, it has weathered much and is ready for more.

I enjoyed doing these, the first one seemed to come a lot easier and I’m not sure if that’s because of the subject matter being used twice or the context simply being a bit tougher to tackle.

Until next time.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Me, myself and I'm starting again.

So, on with the first exercise, I posted a short story in the meantime, I don't think it's up to the standard I'm aiming for but then that's the point of all this work.

Chapter one is very readable, but this is essentially a book of exercises so I can't just give them away, you need to go and buy the book. You could infer the questions from the answers in a kind of 'Jeopardy’ style but you’d be missing the all the context and build up. Trust me, it’s worth reading.
I’ve chosen a nickname of mine and written a few paragraphs about it.

‘Timmy Da Phish had a complicated birth. I played cricket, back when I lived in England, and if there’s one thing that cricketers obsess about it’s the weather. E-mails would be tossed back and forth between players in the days leading up to a crucial cup match discussing the fickle English weather. Having made his prediction, a team mate signed off ‘Kettles’ (an affectionate nickname of famous weatherman John Kettley). In return I signed my own prognostication Timmy Da Phish (After Michael Fish) and it stuck with me.
See original image 
Later, my team shirt had Da Phish (To save on letters) on the back and my e-mail account became Timmy_da_phish@****.com.

It is a comforting name that reminds me of playing cricket and of the team-mates and friends of that era. It has gone out of use now that I’m in France , which is sad but I still use it online from time to time, it’s apparently unique.

I look back on that time with a lot of fondness, the Real Oddies Cricket Club lived up to their name. We were the only team in the league that didn’t have a home town or village, we were a pub team (The Odd One Out Free House) and we found our players drinking in the lounge bar. As a result, we were not the most athletic or gifted cricketers but we were a wide range of characters.

Photo of The Odd One Out - Colchester, Essex, United Kingdom. Fully stocked!The pub itself was a blast from the 1970’s, sticky carpets, vinyl upholstered benches and no swearing in earshot of TL (The landlord). It hosted the meetings for The Socialist Worker’s Party and the local mental health self-help group. It also boasted the finest real ales in Colchester so attracted an altogether different crowd of ale aficionados. To say there were a few characters would be selling it rather short. From these fine specimens, we would select 11 able bodied men and women to play league standard cricket, very occasionally with spectacular success. Of course, there is a downside to this selection policy reflected in a scorecard (19 all out, almost certainly a league record low) a copy of which graces the wall of the lounge bar.

I believe it is all still going on.’

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Ouch! Shock Development.

When I started this blog, I tracked down one of the ladies who wrote it and asked permission to use her book and blog my results, progress and impressions of it as I went. I heard nothing until last night when she wrote to me and said '...we do not give you permission to use the exercises or quote from the book.' That's quite a slap in the face given that I've bought the book and was doing my best to promote it. In my humble opinion, it is a good book and I think that my final assessment would have been pretty positive. Frankly, I didn't ask for permission to quote from the book and if I can't use the exercises then it might be fair to consider asking for a refund.

It is however, only one book out there in a large market and I will now get on with starting a new one. I have gone for 'Back to Creative Writing School' by Bridget Whelan and will endeavour to avoid the same issues again. Largely by not sending a polite enquiry to the author and also by continuing not to quote from or giving away too much of the book. Let’s face it, if anyone has the stamina to read weeks of my blogs to try to glean the essence of a writing course and all for the sake of saving the cost of a book then good luck to them. My recommendation will always be to buy the book if you like what you see here.

Lesson learned, back soon with my first impressions of the new book.