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skiffcat

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I’m not entirely sure whether I expected to find the conduit to the new world or the parallel universe that I was looking for. All the places I’d searched were pretty tame and totally expected – a deserted old cottage in a wood, a cave in a disused quarry, an old warehouse that smelt of fish even though it was nowhere near the sea. They all failed to produce anything. Not even that sense of prickling at the back of the neck when you think you might be getting close to something promising.

How long did I search? Days? Weeks? Months? Certainly not years. All that pointless wasted time. Promising everything and achieving nothing. And when the opportunity did come, it came of course from a totally unexpected source, and much nearer to home. In fact, it came inside my home. How weird was that. The conduit I had wasted time looking for was right there, near me, all the time.

In a book.

Admittedly, it was a book I had not seen on the shelf before. It was old, the lettering was missing off the spine and as I pulled it from between its close neighbours it emitted a cloud of dust. Where had it come from? Or had it always been there?

I was almost frightened to open it. I knew you see. I knew. This was what I had been looking for. All I had to do was open this ancient tome, and I would be instantaneously elsewhere. Who knows where?

I had to do it of course. There was no turning back. Would I be able to return to my own world, my own universe, once I had taken this step? Your guess is as good as mine.

I sat down in my favourite chair. The book was in my hands. I opened it.

308 words in 10 minutes at 09:52 PM on Sep 30, 2017 | comments

A girl called Rose. A dog called Rufus. A village in the depths of the Kent Countryside. A community baying for blood. The blood of a witch. A village supposing that thirteen-year-old Rose is that witch. A girl hiding and crying and wondering why she is being subjected to persecution. A dog called Rufus, loyal and loving, wanting to protect his mistress, but not knowing how to. Whimpering, Rufus watches through a crack in the barn door as the baying crowd advances down the village High Street, Elder Marcus McCracken at the forefront of the parade, a flaming torch held high in the air. The crowd approach, closer and closer. Rose holds her hands against her eyes so as not to see. But Rufus sees. And Rufus growls. Rufus is ready to protect the little girl who has known and loved his since he was a puppy. Rufus is ready to spring out and confront the crowd. But Myles Merryweather the Archer is caressing his bow with an arrow in its nock, just waiting for a target to aim at.

180 words in 7 minutes at 08:37 PM on Apr 04, 2015 | comments

Deep in the Kent countryside is a village nobody ever finds. And those who have found it probably wished they hadn’t. It is difficult to describe to you how to get there, but even if it was, I probably wouldn’t do it. You wouldn’t want to go. Or maybe you would, but I wouldn’t let you. You see, it’s not safe.

I first found Little Growlsden early last Summer, I mean very early in the Summer, like May. By accident. I was looking for some gardens to photograph. I had found them on the Internet and had memorised the details of how to get there. Or so I thought. It as a cloudless day and very very warm for May.

Before very long I realised I had got myself lost. The trees were too tall, the shadows too long and the road too narrow for me to be sure of where I was going.

Then I came upon the sign ‘Little Growlsden’. It was an austere sign, on plain wood, painted in unruly letters almost as if a child had done it. I had never heard of the place and indeed, never knew of its existence before this juncture.

199 words in 10 minutes at 02:48 PM on Apr 04, 2015 | comments

I’ve forgotten how much I can write in 10 minutes. It has been so long. It depends of course on what I start writing about and whether it motivates me to write more. Because on occasions I would override the ten minute button and carry on writing. Then you knew the writing was good and might yield something fruitful. Indeed, some of my previous posts have made into print in professional magazines. Thus WriteForTen can be a good motivator. So I am back. But what shall I write about? Writing tutors and writing schools recommend ‘stream of consciousness’ writing and I can understand why. All writers (including professionals) often start by writing rubbish or whatever comes into their heads, and lo and behold, after a time, they find they are writing stuff which has purpose, point and possibilities. So I am returning to WriteForTen and I promise to write at least one post a day. But I won’t put that in writing! So ’que’est ce que j’ecris aujourd hui?‘. Forgive my almost passable French.
I could write about the lady I met in the Ship Inn today. Her name was Angela and she will be 80 on the 11th June. She was with her ’now’ partner, Don, 21 years her junior. In fact, she referred to herself as a ‘cougar’. She was interested in my writing. I had a notepad with me and was scribbling as I often do in public places. She took a great interest in what I had had published and said she would refer my name and books to a bookshop owner friend of hers.
I was equally as interested in her. She was animated, youthful, her eyes were alive. She asked me if I did ghost-writing because she’d had a most eventful life. I didn’t doubt it. She now lived in Warwick but she and Don were on their way to the continent, eventually to a camp-site near Bruges where they would park their caravan, which was presently parked at the Little Switzerland site just up the road. I told her about the ‘Ballad of Switzerland John’ a traditional song which tells the tale of how John from little Switzerland had courted the daughter of the innkeeper at ‘The Valiant Sailor’ the Inn at the top of Dover Hill. He had taken her and her younger sister out for a walk one day and strangled them both. The story has gone down into folklore and been ‘balladised’ to boot.
But back to Angela. Her mother and father had moved her to London shortly after the end of WWII, as soon as it was safe there after the Blitz. She had been enrolled in a girls Catholic Convent School in South Kensington which is now no longer there. Her father had taken her and her younger sister skiing, and back in the day, she had won skiing competitions for various international competitions. She had been married once to Tony (a marriage of agreement, since her father and Tony’s had played Rugby together at Eton. She knew Switzerland very well and became very excited when I told her I had been to Lausanne.
But then she became very agitated because her partner Don had disappeared from her side, leaving a half a pint of lager in front of the place where he had been sitting. I offered to look for him, but she was up and gone. She found him. He had gone over the road to the fish and chip shop to buy their supper. Their ordered a taxi back to their camp site at little Switzerland but were asked by the pub’s landlady to stand outside because the smell of the fish and chips was pervading the pub’s atmosphere (some people have no respect!)
I waved to them as their taxi departed.
Now there, you see, all sorts of ideas for a story. Use the three tools to create something special:
What if? What if she had asked me to ghost-write her life story? What might I have discovered? What might I have unravelled on going to her home?
Step sideways – make a link that wasn’t there. Was she a descendant of either Switzerland John or one of the poor murdered girls? Why had she returned? (Was Don related to John and she to the girls? A ghostly revenge motive?)
Bring in something else – find a totally unrelated fact and introduce it somehow into the story? Another person in the pub interested in them? The leaving behind of an artefact (deliberately?) which causes me (or the protagonist in the story) to follow them back to Little Switzerland to return it. But what then?
Lots and lots of ideas for working up into a story. Interesting characters – especially her, but what about Don? What is his role in all this and how does his character play a part? A good point now to think about the ending you want and the genre you are writing in. To investigate Angela’s fictional past now is a treat waiting to happen.

845 words in 15 minutes at 03:19 AM on Apr 04, 2015 | comments

My word, this site has changed since I was last on here. It was once used by creative people doing creative writing and exchanging ideas. Now it is crowded out by boring adverts about weight loss, skin care and taxation advice. Oh Ian Li (creator) please block those who seek not to use this site for that which it was originally intended.

62 words in 3 minutes at 01:15 PM on Jul 20, 2014 | comments

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