Monthly Archives: March 2014


The current homework for the group is to write a short story inspired by a taboo.  I stole this idea shamelessly from Alison Macleod who suggests it in an essay in ‘Short Circuit’ – a great book for anyone interested in writing short stories.

It’s a commonly held belief that all good stories have some sort of conflict at their centre, and taboos have conflict built in. There are lots of ways you could go with this… taboos can be to do with people, feelings, places, actions; from something as mild as smoking behind the bicycle sheds through reading someone else’s diary to incest… murder… who knows?  The challenge will be to make sure the reader understands the allure of the taboo in question, and think hard about what the character has to lose.  I look forward to hearing the results!

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Posted by on March 24, 2014 in General


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The Boots

Gun shots were heard, then came the banging on the doors of our village. There was screaming and shouting everywhere. It had started. My country had chosen to be divided on such a lovely warm, sunny spring day. Nature was ready to explode, green buds slowly creeping out of their branches, flowers popping up in the fields, the sunlight lasting a little longer each evening. Such a day would be good for fishing, cycling or playing football. Yesterday, people from both sides worked together, respecting each other’s religion and ethnic background. Children played together and went to the same schools, meals were shared, the same football team supported, but today we have created hatred for many generations to come.

Mother quickly pushed me under the coffee table in the living room. It was narrow, hardly big enough to hide a nine year old boy. The table was covered with an embroidered cloth which mother had spent many evenings stitching near the fire while I read out loud from the ‘The Jungle Book’. Father would correct my English and made me pronounce the words correctly.

Outside our house, there was chaos. I could only hear the clock ticking in the living room. The fear inside me was the same as sitting in an exam room with sweaty hands and that feeling of nausea. I peeped through the drapes of the table cloth; the piano stood proudly near the window. Many children from the village had been taught by my mother.The wooden floor looked huge from where I was hiding. The floor boards were never level and liked to squeak.

Finally, the unavoidable happened, the banging was on our door. It was so loud that it made me jump. Father quickly moved towards the door. His finger was on his lips and he told me to stay hidden. The door was pushed open, the sun crept into our living room, tiny dust particles were floating in the sunlight. Heavy boots tramped in, the kind that soldiers wore. The well polished boots were so shiny,  they almost gave me away through reflection. The smell of shoe polish was so strong that it made me sick. Marks of mud were on the floor, carried in by those boots. ‘Mum will have to mop it up after they leave’, I thought. There was a particular boot that caught my eye. I recognised the ‘Arsenal’ socks that pulled up above the knee. A leaf was stuck under the boot. ‘He supports the same team as I do. Surely he will not hurt us’, I thought.

The floorboard squeaked when he walked past. He walked back and stood in front of my table. I thought my heart was going to jump out of my mouth. It was beating so loud that I was sure he could hear it. I told myself to play a tune in my head, that would relax me. It always worked, when I had stage fright performing at a concert, but even Papageno’s song could not control my shivering at that very moment.

Discussions were going on. Father tried to bribe them with his pocket watch. There was lots of pushing and shouting. Mother was crying. Father’s glasses were flung to the floor and the man with the Arsenal socks stepped on it. The glasses shattered into many fine pieces and the frames were dented. Father was now as blind as a bat. There was too much noise. I covered my ears and carried on with Papageno .

Suddenly there was a shot. The ringing stayed in my ears. Father dropped to the floor. The dust particles exploded in the air. I couldn’t feel the impact of father’s fall or mother’s hysterical screams. Only the ringing sound was in my ears. Father’s eyes were staring straight at me. Blood was oozing out of his head, it spilled into the cracks of the wooden floor. It spread to the coffee table and reached my shoes. That was when my body went weak and everything turned dark.

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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in General


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Poetry, anyone?

NaPoWriMo begins in two weeks time. Thirty days, thirty poems — no excuses! 

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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in General


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Speed reading…

Speed reading takes another step closer to being pure information absorption with the advent of Spritz. Designed to help you read up to 1000 wpm, Spritz utilises something they term the Optimal Recognition Point to fire words at the reader, without ever having to move their eyes beyond one fixed point.

I have to say it is the first time I’ve been excited by the prospect of e-reading. The idea is potentially loathsome for fiction, allowing no time to sub-vocalise characters or re-read, but can you imagine how effective studying like this could be?

Something to think about…

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Posted by on March 15, 2014 in General


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Whole lorra firsts…

With so many of us making our first blog posts, I’ve been feeling a little sentimental about the first homework exercise I took part in with the group back in 2012. Nicky gave us the prompt ‘There is a hearing aid whining on the kitchen table’ to write from and the stories that came back were incredibly varied: Irene’s eventually turned into a much larger story all about the young boy whose character was generated by the exercise — part of which is included in our anthology — and I particularly remember Sue’s story, told from the perspective of a disgruntled hearing aid that had been left behind by its blissfully oblivious owner! I shared these two small pieces — one poem, one prose — from the exercise that, although they will never be my best work, remind of the day I remembered that I can write and the confidence that gives me.




There is a hearing aid whining on the kitchen table, still spinning where she left it just moments before when she walked out of the room, and out of the back door. Dad hasn’t even noticed, he’s still raving on as he washes up. I can’t blame Nan, he just won’t shut up about all the things he has to do for her, and all the things he thinks she should be doing for herself. He never once stops to talk to her and just ask how she is. He needs a session with my careers advisor; learn a bit about active listening at least.

The hearing aid was his idea. He kept shouting when Nan wasn’t listening and nagging her to get a check-up in the vain presumption that she wanted to listen to him, and wasn’t just zoning out. Eventually he got her one for Christmas and expected her to be grateful for it because he’d spent so much money – never mind that she didn’t want one. But she had duly worn it and now had no excuse for not listening to his tirade of suggestions about how to live her life. I can imagine how that makes her feel, she’s not the only one he tries to organise. I know it’s well meant but at times I envy Nan, at least she’s allowed to close her door!

It can’t have been easy for her, giving up her independence like that; can’t have been easy asking her child for help. Dad just doesn’t see it though. It was never a question of if he’d help her, of course he would, he really does love her, but how and what he will do for her are still up for debate. Nan knows she must adapt to his lifestyle, knows she must now follow our family’s path, but that’s no reason to stop seeing her as an individual, to treat her like a burden. And now; now she’s just walked out, and her side of the conversation about her life has become so inconsequential to him that he’s not even noticed. Maybe I should say something, but maybe he wouldn’t care what I thought either. So I just sit back, watching the hearing aid spinning on the table, whining in the background; an accompaniment to Dad’s one man manifesto.


Aunt Ginny


There’s a hearing aid whining on the kitchen table

Attached to my Aunt, face down in the trifle.

It seems that the Merlot ran out just too soon

In the fifteen minutes while I left the room;

So, for want of a bottle, she deemed it best

To top herself up with cooking Sherry instead!

Now well pickled, preserved and soused in grape

Sound asleep in my pudding, I leave her prostrate.



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Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Fiction, Homework


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I went to this last year – I had a really interesting day and learnt lots too. What’s more, it’s all free – apart from any books you might accidentally buy!

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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in General


Three the Hard Way

Exciting live poetry event in Leicester!

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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in General


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