Winter thoughts

When in doubt about a scene, when it feels wrong, broken-backed, vague…

… go to the core relationship.

Who is doing what to whom, with whom and why.

I need to keep reminding myself of this, every single time.




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cracked screenRight now the universe seems determined to separate me from the keyboard; in December, only 4 days after successfully completing 50K words to win Nanowrimo, my laptop (an infant of only six month age, sir) slipped from my hand as I packed for work and fell two foot to the linoleum.

Result – one unusably cracked screen and tears before the cocktail hour.

It’s been packed off to Germany, to what I fondly imagine to be an old toymaker’s workshop nestled under snow-covered pines, to be repaired or replaced, leaving me to beg an old and only slightly decrepit Dell from my workplace. (This is justified; I am frequently required to work from home at short notice, as was the case only a few days later when I woke to find myself snowed into my mother’s tiny house in Mid Wales.)
A month later my phone went one better and died. Just fluttered its eyelids one last time and expired, lying sad and silent on the floor of its cage as the rain fell in the pre-dawn darkness.

Hear me, ye gods! [shakes fist at a thunderous sky] Ye shall not succeed! Words, the best words, will find a way into some kind of order in some kind of digital form, come rain, shine, snow or leaves on the line.

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Piecing the Puzzle

Those first pieces were 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 8,000 words long.
But there was a longer story nudging at my subconscious, bubbling up to the surface in bits and pieces and bobbing there ready to be netted and brought aboard.
The trouble was in pieces all those fragments together to make a robust but manageable whole.
Which is why I found myself, that damp and dark morning drinking bad tea in an uncomfortable London caff, with a glue stick and an envelope full of printed paragraphs. Trying to piece them together so I could start to fill in the gaps.
It must have worked, eventually, because I finished that story some weeks or months later, the first to broach the ceiling of 10,000.
But since then I have left many more unfinished, and also with a sense of the paradoxical difficulty of making story that flows so easily and unstoppably on the micro scale work on the larger scale.
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Word Fever

I remember vividly my first attempts to corral scraps of words into a longer form piece.

It was over 15 years ago, in a north London cafe which managed to be both aggressively overlit and irremediably gloomy.

The words in front of me had emerged in little spurts, unbidden, like a sneeze in hayfever season. They seemed to arise from the act of walking in the morning, jogged and shaken into shape ready to be expelled. Rarely more than half a page at a time.

I would try to hold them in my head through to day, along with the wonderful feverish urgent itch, until free to let them out. Scratches on the page. A rattle of keys in a coffee bar on the way to the station.

It was a fever. Every cell would be infected with words, strings of words, multiplying in my head.

At least once that I recall I stopped, turned around, called in sick, to get the fit done and dusted while it was raging in me.

It was like being in

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It’s frankly extraordinary that almost 500 years after the reformation the café at work still serves fish every Friday.

Haddock and cod fishcakes to be precise.

With chips.


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