Tag Archives: creative writing

A Brief Interlude

In which The Author needs a change of scene

Music comes up slowly; the track is ‘Traffic’ by Stereophonics. It is raining gently. It’s just another weeknight in a run-down town somewhere in the South Wales Valleys. The camera tracks along the main street, passing a long row of shops protected behind steel shutters. A small group of teenagers loiter on a raised seating area in the middle of the square. The camera pauses outside a small pub, brightly lit, and with about half a dozen punters dotted around the single room. One of the windows is broken, but still manages to stay together. Throughout this establishing scene, the AUTHOR’s voice comes over in a cagey, stagy, side-of-mouth film noir style.
THE AUTHOR: [voice-over] You know, some guy called Eddington had a good idea back before any of us were even gleams in the milkman’s eyes. He reckoned that if you took an infinite number of monkeys, sat them in front of an infinite number of typewriters, and just let them bash away randomly at the keys for ever and a day, an amazing thing would happen. While we grew old and died, our children and our grandchildren grew old and died, the monkeys would produce every great book. Not just the Bible and Shakespeare, mind you – mere chance would eventually come up with every word ever written by Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Miguel Cervantes, John Milton, Lord Byron, the Marquis de Sade, Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Henry Miller, William Burroughs … You name it, they’d all fall out by the simple mechanics of chance and probability. It’s a nice idea. While they’re at it, our team of tame monkeys will also churn out the complete works of Jeffrey Archer and E. L. James, op-ed pieces for the Daily Mail, and new comedy shows for Radio 4. Hell, you have to wade through the shit to get to the truffle.
The camera zooms in ‘through’ the centre of the network of cracks to the interior of the pub, and pauses. The scene changes magically from full colour, through b/w, to sepia, and back again.
THE AUTHOR: [voice-over] I don’t know quite how many of you boys and girls have ever heard of a guy named Dennis Potter. He used to be kinda big when your mams and dads were tryin’ to keep a house together. He was a writer. Not like the guy who pukes a coupla hundred words out for the local rag every week, without even a bean for his troubles. When I say he was a ‘writer’, I mean the fellow really knew how to put pen to paper. He didn’t find it easy, mind you, not with his hands crippled up the way they were. Even holding a pen was something he found very painful at times. In fact, I guess you could say that for him, writing really was hard work in the true sense of the word.
The camera pans very slowly around the room. The bar is in the far corner, in a straight line from the door. Between these two fixed points are a long bench seat, three oblong tables, and half a dozen chairs. Another long bench seat is situated beneath the windows, and three round tables are placed unevenly in the remaining space. In the opposite corner, and on the wall adjacent to the bar, are two large TV sets tuned to the horse racing. The main features of the interior decor are a log-burning stove (unlit), and above it a stuffed moose’s head (artificial). RHIAN, the barmaid, is sitting at the hatchway flicking through the paper. NEIL, the most regular of all the regulars, is perched on a bar stool and trying to attract her attention. The camera pans across the low bench seating, taking in the faces of the other customers: JEFF, a tall chap in his early sixties with a raucous laugh which rings out periodically; BINGO BERT, who disappears off to the local club every evening for a game of housey; BORING BOB, a retired teacher who fancies himself as the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom; PAUL JUKEBOX, who is at the high-functioning end of the autistic spectrum, and who makes frequent visits to the eponymous machine; KEN HORSES, whose attention is fixed to one of the televisions; and DENISE, who wears a wig to cover hair loss incurred by chemotherapy. We pick up snatches of improvised, naturalistic, but ultimately extremely clichéd dialogue. Finally, the camera comes to rest at an empty seat nearest the door. On the table are a black Samsung Netbook, a glasses case, a pen, and a copy of the Guardian, folded to reveal an almost-unstarted crossword. On the seat is a copy of the Ordnance Survey map OL14 – Wye Valley and Forest of Dean. This is STEVE’S seat. He is nowhere to be seen.
THE AUTHOR: [voice-over] Now you take the guy who should be sitting at this table. Some people in this little town say he‘s a writer. In moments of weakness, he might even say it of himself. I mean, when you’ve had a poem published in The Spectator, a short story showcased in the University of Glamorgan Creative Writing Anthology, umpteen letters printed in the local papers, and two hundred and fifty-odd blog entries posted online, I guess you could legitimately describe yourself as a ‘published author’. So, let’s humour him for a minute. He’s come up against the thing that all writers fear even more than the rejection slip: writer’s block. Right now, he’s taking a leak. And he’s also taking a break. He’s decided that he’s already got more than enough mileage out of writing about the boring bastards in this place. I mean, will ya just listen to them for a minute? Jesus, it’s the same routine every night, with the same soundtrack on the jukebox and the same faces having the same conversations, as regular as a guy who’s finished off last night’s vindaloo for breakfast. It’s no wonder the chap who’s currently communing with Nature in the gents’ toilet feels that he needs a change of scene.
The camera comes in close on the cover of the map.
THE AUTHOR: [voice-over] In fact, it seems as though a little trip to the Forest of Dean might be just what the doctor ordered for this poor miserable soul. He can pay homage to Dennis Potter in person, instead of just rereading the screenplay of The Singing Detective for the hundredth time. It’s time to see the place with his own eyes, and maybe have an adventure or two.
The camera comes in close on the crossword. We see that only three clues have been completed. They intersect nicely: a seven-letter word originating at 1 across, a nine-letter word dropping down from the end of it, and a three-letter word almost in the middle of the grid. The camera pauses so that we can make out the untidy block capitals:

Epic Fail

In which The Author discovers the meaning of a popular youth idiom

I’d never acknowledged hearing the phrase ‘epic fail’ until I started university last autumn. I’m assuming it’s one of those American terms that’s entered popular discourse via the teen TV audiences. I expect I must have heard it before, but I’m far too old to watch shows like High School Musical and Glee. It had never really registered with me. Some of the girls in my Creative Writing group use it all the time – especially on Facebook.
Now I know what it means…
Following a very difficult psychological period between Christmas and now, I am officially going to fail my first year in epic fashion.
I’ve still got to catch up on the family stuff, but if you’ve been reading this regularly you’ll know that my state of mind hasn’t been good for some time. It’s been getting worse. I haven’t slept properly for over two months. Partly, that’s down to the fact that my depression has returned with a vengeance. It’s also down to the teenage thugs who jumped me in town the evening of the Wales vs France game, leaving me battered and bruised, and with a shoulder injury which still causes me great pain at night.
When you consider that I spent seven years of my life in almost unbelievable pain from a problem in my right shoulder, it’s somewhat ironic that these twats should have helped to fuck up my left shoulder.
As a result of overcompensating for the new injury, I’ve managed to reignite my old problem. I’ve got enough painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication to sink a battleship, along with ibuprofen gel, comfrey oil, and my heat massager, and they are doing nothing to help.
Last Friday was the deadline for an assignment for Theories and Concepts in Psychology. We had to either: a) write up both of our mini-projects, or b) write up one mini-project, and then write a thousand words on Freud’s influence in modern psychology. We were only given the latter option during the last lecture of term. Most people missed it, because they were up to their ears with other work, or had already gone home for Easter. We could only find out the topic by emailing the lecturer.
I tried twice, and am still waiting for an answer. When I emailed the rest of the group, only Siân knew the content. I’m assuming that she used her knowledge of crime scene processing to hide the evidence when she followed Gareth M. to his office and beat the information out of him. Over Easter I had about a dozen emails from the rest of the group, wanting to know more about this previously unannounced alternative.
By then it was too late. I’d already missed the hand-in date for the Psychology in Everyday Life essay because I was bogged down with a death in the family and its aftermath. The Mitigating Circumstances Panel very generously extended my submission date to 7 April – a whole week later. I only found this out two days ago, when their letter came through my door. Fucking great! Doctor, if you’re passing, is there any chance you can drop me off in Treforest at the end of March? I promise not to cross my own timeline…
I quite frankly couldn’t be arsed to go to the catch-up sessions for Criminalistics – especially when I had a funeral to sort out and the snow had fucked half of them up anyway. The Creative Writing and History of English Language assignments might possibly go in this week – just in time to get them capped at 40%. The others won’t count for anything.
I went down to the uni every day last week to try and get some shape on my work, but without any success. I was too tired, too stressed and too depressed to try and concentrate on anything. I went down again today, but came away after a couple of hours. Even on the train before we left Aberdare, I could feel my nerves fraying. Some fat teenager was playing ‘music’ on his phone just in front of me. He was with an adult, but the latter made no attempt to tell the chavvy twat to turn his sounds off. I was trying to read an article in a book.
With a very loud ‘For fuck’s sake,’ I shoved my book back in my bag and headed for the next carriage. Halfway down the aisle I said (also very loudly) ‘I didn’t pay to come into a fucking disco!’
When I got to the library I had a deskload of books and journals for Gill A.’s assignment, but it was no use. I simply couldn’t focus. I felt exactly the same as I did when I fucked up the Crime Scene House exercise, back during the snow. I didn’t even bother to turn up for the Crime Scene Village tutorial. There was no point. Richard P. knows I’ve fucked up the module, and so do I, so why bother even trying?
When I got back to Aberdare I popped in for a pint. I was approached by a pissed-up woman who wanted to talk to me. She reckoned she knew me. I didn’t know her. It turned out that she was the woman whom Andrew F. had been staying with during his absence last year. She wanted to talk to me because I was one of Andrew’s friends.
Fact: Andrew was a pathetic alcoholic who drank himself to death at the age of 46. He wasn’t a really close friend – he was just another of the AAPAA members who’s checked out prematurely over recent years. I wasn’t surprised to find out that she’s a pathetic alcoholic too. I had a pint in front of me. That was all we had in common.
She started crying when I told her I wasn’t in the mood for company. She kept wheedling at me. I told her to piss off. She said I was a nasty, aggressive man. But I’m not – I just wanted to have a quiet pint, and I didn’t want company. Why should I give a fuck about her anyway? I’ve got enough shit to worry about, without taking anyone else’s as well!
If I’m very lucky I might get to repeat my first year. If I do, I wonder if I have to do the same modules. I’d like to change direction and switch to English Language (major) with TESOL (minor) – I met the TESOL lecturer last week and he’s happy to countersign my paperwork in principle. I’m meeting the Eng. Lang. tutor tomorrow to discuss the change. Before that, I’ve got an appointment to see one of the student counsellors. It’s my second appointment – the first was just before the funeral, where I didn’t go into too much detail. Tomorrow I think I’m going to have to let rip.
After that, I’ll call in and see my course tutor, and let her know the state of play. Then I’ll have to ring RCT and find out what happens funding-wise when someone repeats a year. Watch this space …