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Last writing pr…

Last writing practice of the year complete.  I now have some serious work to produce.  I have a critical essay to write about the film script I have written. That’s all well and good, but I don’t think the script hits the sort of targets that show the learning I have done so far this year.  The essay will have to say how it missed its mark.  The same thing is true of the critical essays for Genre and Creative Writing.  These essays will say essentially the same thing since they will both have to examine the techniques used by myself and other authors in the work we’ve looked at this term.  A lot of stuff has bled through from one to the other and it’s getting me confused. Writing the City is entirely on the back burner.  I have too many ideas for a final piece and feel isolated in my class.  I’m hoping a tutorial will help, but I have to wait a week or so before I can have one. And I still have a 1000 word creative piece to do before I can write the CMW essay.  The romance I wrote is still not a romance, the horror story is only in an outline and the the script that I spent a month on no one understands. 

Still I have a party to go to this  evening for the first time I can remember and another nights “sleep” to survive.  Happy new year



In Which I Meet My Match

Pay close attention, get as near as you dare, use a magnifying glass if you can and watch the usual become fascinating.

I just blew out a match, one of the long cook’s matches. They give a really firm satisfying strike, always seem to work first time and have enough phosphorus to really flare up and sustain a flame.  The trouble is if you use one to light a single candle you have an awful lot of unburnt wood to play around with.  So I played. I paid close attention.  I knew I was looking at chemistry, a reaction of substances after applying heat is really all the striking of a match is, but up close it is magic.  The examination began after the candle lighting.  I had a tea light in a glass, the flame waving and dancing in the micro-climate of turbulence the flame was creating, the tiny imperfections on the glass punctuating the reflection of the flame within it, the fingerprinted smears on the outside of the glass blurring the dance, the smudge of soot near the rim irritating my sense of wonder because the scene would otherwise be light and sparkle. An artist might argue for the smudge as a counterpoint to light and sparkle. All I knew was that my eye was always drawn to it.  I still held the match and examined that instead.  It was 3” long, half burnt, the dome of burnt phosphorus gone somewhere on the kitchen lino floor as I blew the match out. What remained was a story of the reaction.  I could read it from left to right as my eye followed from the jagged point of charcoal where the phosphorus flame had been the source of intense heat.  The jags in the structure of the charcoal were regular, as if someone had taken the carbon molecules away brick by brick. It was also slightly twisted, like perhaps the tree that it had come from originally, only this twisting was caused by the violent evaporation of the moisture in the wood fibres rather than the sculpting of wind and rain on a canopy of leaves and branches.  Evidence of the oily moisture was still evident as my eye moved along from the graduated blackness to wooden-ness. Another smudge.  It was as distracting as the soot on the glass.  Instead of seeing the smooth transitional change of colour, black through dark brown to light scorched brown to creamy wood, there was this tiny oily smear. Wood molecules heated to breaking point, pyrolized to moisture and unburnt.  A tiny vignette of story in the larger tale. 

It was time to move the story on again.  I moved the match to the glass where the tea light was gyrating. Carefully, without putting it in the flame, I dipped the unburnt end of the match in the molten wax. I held it close to my eye and watched the wax both absorb into the wood fibres and then coalesce to a white sheen on the wood’s surface.  As soon as I brought it to the flame it bubble for the briefest of moments and then flared into a flame that engulfed almost half of the match. I had to move my thumb away for fear of getting singed.  The flame had the lovely blues and purples near the fuel, and the large bright orange, almost yellow aura. Right at the edges the faintest hint of a black outline faded in and out as the combustion fluctuated.  I stared at it a moment longer and blew.  The match had barely disintegrated.  It was glowing a coal-like red deep within its structure. The glow was diminishing as I watched; more structure appeared as the glowing dimmed till it looked like the view through a powerful telescope at a miniature stellar nursery that was obscured gradually by a cloudy night sky. The moment the last pinprick of red disappeared, smoke bloomed into air, twisting like a dervish and evaporating like mist in the sunshine.

I don’t normally spend a moments thought on this sort of thing. However I was minded today of a story I heard about an Amazon tribe that after talking to explorers gathered at the river’s edge to watch their boat plane land to collect the visitors.  They did not seem overly impressed as the noisy machine cut its engine and drifted on its own momentum to the bank.  The explorers asked the tribesman what they thought of the mechanical bird. They replied,”Well of course you can fly, you have fire in your pocket.”

Catching the Head

The whole station was evacuating as we arrived.

Between us we were lugging a large red box filled with rams and blocks.

It was difficult trying to make our way against the flow of people and not banging our shins on the metal strengthened edges of it.

We sweated in our fire fighting uniforms.

At the top of the staircase down to the platform we smelt the cooked shit and our noses wrinkled

We caught our breath at the bottom and listened to the tranquillity of what was otherwise a normal scene. A tube train with the doors open but no one about.

The smell was quite bad as we walked to the front of the train where our commander and a couple of the others were waiting for us.

“He’s definitely dead -” he said

We looked back under the bogey lit by his torch; we couldn’t see much except for a red plaid shirt.

“ – the off-side wheel is parked on his head.”

A stretcher and a few plastic sheets arrived, with more of our crew with the ambulance crew bringing up the rear.

“You’re not going to need too many of your skills here fellas” he said to them.” Best we just get the bits we can before they get a new driver to take the train out.  It’s pointless jacking this thing up the state he’s in.”

He motioned to Andy and I to get into the suicide pit with a few plastic sheets. The light from our torches, fastened on the chest of our tunics, danced around in the gloom under the train as we made our way underneath it.

Andy and I saw the half head cleaved by the wheel at the same time. It was unreal, as if mocked up for a movie, but we looked at each other and knew we were not about to pick it up with our hands, even with our plastic gloves on.

Andy climbed out of the pit by the station wall and squeezed down the side of the carriage.

I took a plastic sheet and knelt in the pit near the wheel.

“Ready Woody?

Andy placed his boot behind the half head and kicked it towards me

I looked away and felt a heavy slap as it landed in the sheet.

Still not looking I covered the head with the overlapping edges and made my way to the platform with the package.

I was numb

“Well done Woody”  said the commander quietly.

Eddie and the Five Iron of Wonder

Eddie and the Five Iron of Wonder                                         Richard Wood

The first time Eddie’s bedroom door opened the third way he was half asleep and thought that he must still be dreaming.  Instead of using a loo he peed onto a large clump of moonlight lit mushrooms that appeared much the same as porcelain through the gloom of the night and half gummed up eyes.  In two shakes he was back in his bedroom and into bed feeling both unperturbed and relieved.

            When Eddie next woke it was morning and he got up to look at the view from the window across the golf course. The holiday stretched before him much as his arms did as he yawned.  Uncle Peter was certainly a surprising chap, thought Eddie.  Until the funeral a month ago he didn’t even know his Mum had had a brother, let alone one whose summer home in Ireland was actually a modest castle, with a modest eighteen-hole golf course, a modest rifle range and a small petting zoo.

Eddie thought he was going down to breakfast. He’d been to the bathroom, washed and changed.  He had his golf bag over his shoulder and expected to be teeing off after a coffee and a round of toast but it was at this moment that his bedroom door opened again in its third way and Eddie found himself staring at the mushrooms from the night before.  Eddie set down his golf bag and turned around to look at the door he had been through, but could only see it out of the corner of his eye. Any attempt to focus on it was impossible for each time it moved further away and to the side, easily achieved since there were no walls to contain or constrain it.  By the time Eddie had turned round three times it had disappeared and he gave up and focussed on the mushrooms.  Each one was the same size, but differed in colour.  They were two feet tall and had a convex cap in which he might have been able to sit comfortably if they hadn’t been so low and Eddie a manly 6’ tall. The landscape he stood in had a few large trees, and the grass was savannah tall.

It was just dawning on Eddie that the mushrooms looked like enormous golf tees when there was the very particular sound of a black cab braking and through the grass, a few metres from him, a taxi door opened and a turbaned giant in a lime green tracksuit got out carrying a net sack of basket balls.  The new arrival, Sunjaf, one of the stars of the Croydon Cruisers, absently turned to pay the now disappearing driver.  Eddie watched Sunjaf’s back as it told the whole story of his puzzlement and disbelief in a series of large shouldered shrugs. He turned back to Eddie registering the details of the Pringle sweater, check trousers and golf shoes.

‘This isn’t Wembley Arena is it,’ he said.

‘It’s not my bathroom landing either,’ said Eddie.

The conversation didn’t get much beyond the ‘where is this and what is happening’ stage before there was a stranger sight parting the tall grass and heading their way.  Creatures of the night such as vampires are not renowned for screaming when seeing spiders; Kamagasaki, a vampire who lived a (well as far as possible) Buddhist hermit lifestyle in a cave on the sheltered slopes of Mount Kitahotaka (elevation 3106 metres) was screaming like a girl. He was covered in cobwebs and running with his eyes shut until he struck the large golf-tee mushroom and fell over.  His breath lost to the ground, the screaming stopped and Kamagasaki’s eyes opened to focus on a pair of tasteful golfing brogues a few inches from his face.  As he stood he looked past Eddie at the tall grass and what appeared to be fairly rough heath land. He turned and looked at the 6’6’’ basketball player wearing a turban. He turned again and saw a red squirrel the size of a Labrador. 

‘Welcome all to the Land of the Long walk’ said the squirrel, ‘Follow me.’

 A befuddled mind will always respond well to clear orders and the three followed the squirrel through the grass until, quite abruptly it became much shorter. 

‘This is the first tee where your task must begin,’ said the squirrel. ‘The Land of the Long Walk has been cursed by Parr. You have been summoned by the Elsie Mills to match Parr and lift the curse that is destroying our habitat.’

As they stood at the rubber mat where another large golf tee was pushed between its fibred weave, the squirrel approached Sunjaf, took a basketball from his net bag and placed it on the tee. 

‘You must tee off and complete the hole in four shots. Apply your special skills and strengths and you will prevail,’ explained the squirrel.

Kamagasaki the vampire had studied engineering with the Portuguese 300 years before. He knew how to construct trebuchets and suggested an ingenious upside down version of one that would replicate a golf swing and strike the basketball the required distance. Sunjaf had his ceremonial knife and his strength to fashion the trebuchet from saplings.  The bark of the willow was particularly effective for binding the frame together.  Eddie put his knowledge of clubs and the rules of golf to good use and suggested that he and the squirrel go on a reconnaissance mission to find the flag and any bunkers that might hamper them. They returned to find a triangular frame, nearly twice Sunjaf’s height with a series of springy saplings securing the swing arm under enormous tension. To finish the massive club, Eddie over-saw the construction of the perfect 5 iron head, for distance and back spin.

The first shot went straight and true. The second Eddie steered into the rough to avoid a bunker. At the third, an evil wind got up. Eddie wet his finger, threw grass into the breeze and adjusted the frame. With a mighty swoosh the ball went onto the green and trickled up, two metres from the hole. Here the trebuchet was too mighty a club, it was also very bad form to use a wood on the green, so Eddie drew his own 5 iron from his bag and whacked the basket ball as hard as he could to complete the last two metres.  There was an ear-splitting howl of Allis-like disappointment as the curse was broken.

The three congratulated themselves and the small crowd of red squirrels that had gathered at the edge of the green presented them with an acorn each as big as any golf trophy.  From behind the crowd there was a familiar squeal of brakes as Sunjaf’s taxi arrived.  It was driven by the squirrel, wearing a flat cap.

‘Home please,’ said Eddie as all three got in.

‘Anywhere you like guvnor,’ said the squirrel, ‘except south of the river.’


Is it easier to have an argument in a city than elsewhere? It’s nice to focus on the random acts of kindness I often see in town but what of the random acts of rage?

Leaving road rage aside, an affliction that I often succumb to, it is quite amazing that people do not get upset as you might expect. A ticket machine not giving change, the restaurant not serving breakfast at 10.31, the bus driver seeing you run for the bus and still pulling away, the ignored racial or discriminatory slur, the price of a bottle of water, the automatic doors not opening automatically, spitting on the floor of the bus, the arrogance of a young man in a good suit. There are rules that apply to cities more than elsewhere, and one rule is: ‘Don’t make a fuss.’ The punishment for breaking this rule is ‘Standing out.’

I like to think this is something that will change, that people will see that challenging high prices, challenging the moral stands we can’t afford; challenging the neglect we should not allow can be affected by people taking action, but in my experience I know it takes generations to turn attitudes around. There are people who protest about the big things. They are prepared to literally blow up the city to make their point. I’ve seen this up close, been part of society’s response to it, and it hasn’t changed any opinion I might hold because it was a violent act. The city subsumes individual argument like a cry for help in a hurricane. Its institutions are designed to diminish the will to protest. Bank HQs are behind the island barriers of Canary Wharf. Parliament is behind ‘temporary’ concrete embankments. The open space of Paternoster Square is anything but.

In Tibet recently, another nun set fire to herself in protest because her society had ensured that she was unable to protest in no other meaningful way. Now I’m not saying that is a way forward, but seriously, £1.20 for a bottle of water? I’m not having that!

Making a scene.

I was thinking how much I had enjoyed seeing ‘The Apartment’ again. It was so easy to just be carried off with the story rather than watching it on a technical basis. I only remembered that I was watching for technical reasons when the pace slowed. That’s the sign of a good film I suppose.
So much of what we are learning in this module is informing what I do in the other modules. The ways to look at character so that it generates plot (memory, lack and secrets etc.), the writing of the treatment so that you are conscious of how you reveal what part of the plot at what point because you are writing WYSIWYG. Bringing in the corollative objects as symbols in the image also transfers to prose. It’s as if the language of the post war generation has more to do with image than prose since everyone these days access image. It is in an image that we create archetypes and using them gives resonance to a piece of work.

Scenes beats and treatments

I had a bit of a penny dropping moment this evening while explaining what I was up to in my film module.  “I’ve managed to do a full scene with only 3 lines of dialogue in it” I said.  Mum wasn’t entirely impressed.