Writing 101: Be Brief

I arrive at the beach and stare down its vacant stretch; my familiar walk to nowhere. All is greys and browns, except for a fluttering piece of yellow. A paper, caught between the stones of the seawall. Its a letter written from a fearful heart, the woes and wishes of the universe, compacted into its pages.

‘If you feel the same way,’ it finishes, ‘meet me at the last bench on the promenade. I’ll be waiting.’

I crumple the edges, nearly screw it up in resentment. How can someone else know my pain so well?. Is this some kind of a trick? But then I wonder if the sea breeze has finally heard me. Whoever it was written for must never have wanted it. Instead, it fell to me.

I look down the long line of benches that face the bleak horizon. A few bodies are perched on them, mostly the elderly from nearby retirement homes. But is that a girl amongst them? A spark of trepidation, an element of possibility that I haven’t felt forever, spreads like heat in my chest. I pick up the pace, wondering how to explain that I understood the letter, that I have seen all those things, been to the places where uncertainty thrives and loneliness is king.

But as I reach the end of the stretch, I realise nobody is waiting. Just a cruel trick of the senses. I sink on to the bench and look for some evidence of her presence, an after note perhaps, crying out for an answer to her abandonment. But the wind has removed any such gesture. It’s cold again.

Writing 101 involves twenty writing exercises over twenty days. See here for more info.



You know what they say?

What’s that then?

It will be the Romanians next, flooding over here. They’re all the same. They just want a free ride and we’re bloody giving it to them.

Tell me about it. A group of them moved in round the corner from me last week. Five of them to one room. You can bet they’re all on housing benefit. The Government should do something about it.

Still, it’s not as bad as that lot trying to Islamify everything. It’s preposterous. Someone should put a stop to them.

Really? I didn’t think the Romanians did that kind of thing.

No, not them. The other lot.

Who’s that then?

Well, all these Middle Eastern types.

Oh right. Yes, awful stuff.

But no one says anything in case they get offended. You can’t say anything these days. One word and they complain about their human rights. They ought to get rid of them in my opinion.

Well, they’re not just going to give up their rights, are they?

No, I mean the courts should.

Take away their rights?

Well, not just theirs; the whole human rights malarkey. Seems to cause more harm than good in this country.

Oh, I see. Yes, terrible thing.

Mind you, it’s probably all part of the big plan.

What plan is that?

You know, their big plan for this New World Order. They say Tony Blair was in on it and George Bush. You can bet Obama’s got a hand in there somewhere.

But they’re not from the Middle East, are they?

No, I’m talking about Governments. Haven’t you heard? Between a few of them they control the economy, the food supply, everything. They say the financial crash was no accident. Orders came from the very top.

But why would they say that? Then we’d know what they were up to.

No, not them. It’s everyone else who said it.

Like the Romanians?

No, they’ve got nothing to do with it.

How do you know? Maybe that’s what they want you to think?


I’m not sure anymore.

Ok, forget it.

Lovely weather we’re having at the moment.

Yes, but they say it’s going to turn next week.

Who does?

Oh, don’t start.




Writer’s Caf


Writing in cafes is one of my all-time favourite things to do. There is something about being in a cafe that provides the perfect setting for generating ideas (just ask JK Rowling). They are places that are ripe for people watching and listening in on conversations while at the same time allowing you to be with your thoughts. And a hit of a real espresso seems to help too.

But finding that ideal cafe has always been something of a challenge for me. It’s not that there is a shortage of them where I live, particularly on Gloucester Road where there are enough cafes to rival downtown Paris.

Call me fussy, but I find there are a number of factors that come into play when looking for the ideal thought-rousing environment. These are as follows:

  • The noise level shouldn’t be so quiet that the atmosphere is dead yet not so loud that you are unable to think.
  • Coffee should be the predominant product on offer – the scent of fried eggs and butter wafting up your nose is somehow not as stimulating to the mind as the smokiness of freshly brewed coffee
  • it helps if there are a few people of a similar mindset so that you don’t feel like a social recluse for huddling in a corner with your laptop, while at the same time not being a full-blown hipster fest where you’re out of place if you’re not a ‘creative’ (because that’s just annoying)

One of my favourite cafes is currently the Boston Tea Party in Clifton Village. Upstairs it has a wide bar area looking out over the street, which provides the perfect place for putting down some words and getting some daydreaming done. Even when the cafe is busy, it doesn’t seem like it, because the view always makes it feel spacious. Plus, there are usually one or two really hot university students in there bashing out an essay, which is never a bad thing.

What about you? Any other writer’s out there like working in cafes? Which one is your favourite?


The garage

Since I can remember, the garage has always been full of junk. My dad, who was its main inhabitant, was somewhat of a hoarder when it came to things that may or may not be useful and over time, content grew steadily. In his later years, however, my dad became less interested in the usefulness of things and more concerned with an object’s artistic merit (a highly subjective matter) and was partial to using various odds and ends in some of his more abstract photographic work.

About this time, he also started opening up the garage to people who were following the North Bristol Art Trail as our house was a venue for a number of years. Things were (vaguely) arranged into displays, wording was added and a few of my dad’s photographs were slipped into the gaps. 

It only featured for a couple of years, though, due to his reluctance to maintain his membership of the organisation and increasing ill-health. 

After a brief fling with notoriety, the garage went back to being what it always was, a smokers den for my dad and a few friends. Lastly, it served as a welcome change of scene from the living room sofa where he lived out the remainder of his days.

While there are many things I could say about the recent loss of my father, I decided to let pictures do the talking. So here is my ode to the garage, a place that speaks volumes about his character and personality and made for a fascinating photo project too.




Talking cranes

It’s a locally-known thing that the old industrial cranes on Bristol’s harbourside used to talk to each other. It started happening while the Industrial Museum was being transformed into the present day M Shed and many a passersby were entertained and informed about what the new museum would have inside.

A couple of years on and apparently the staff at M Shed still get asked whether the cranes are going to strike up a conversation again. As a result, one of the curators has set out to make it happen and I’m pleased to say that I’m one of the writers who has been tasked with putting together a new set of scripts for them!

I’ve been working on the final drafts and the plan is to get them up and running before the end of the year. I won’t reveal anything else yet, but instead here are a few pictures of a recent trip up in one of the cranes where we got to see things from their perspective.

(Update: I am now working on a new set of scripts especially for an upcoming exhibition at M Shed. See here for a new post all about it)

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I recently signed up to IdeasTap, a creative network for people of all things artistic. I know there are countless websites out there to register and promote your creative interests, but I was impressed by the amount of resources there are on offer here including jobs, creative briefs, artist interviews and even funding applications.

I’m by no means using the site in its entirety, but it is becoming useful for opportunities and the ocassional short story competition that comes along. Recommended reading (and joining) for anyone who’s looking to develop their creative interests.


Urban Investigator strikes again

In case you haven’t_MG_4450 visited the link at the top of the page, I think its about time that I officially introduce  an ongoing project of mine, called Urban Investigator. The project charts the adventures of Leonard Luther, a fictional character, who is stalking the streets of Bristol in order to seek out what could be termed as a ‘sense of place’ about the city.
Combining historical research with descriptive writings and some abstract photography, the aim is to give readers an interpretation of the area as it is encountered by Leonard and bring to life some of the hidden stories that lie in wait in the corners of this city.
At present, he’s been exploring the streets around the Christmas Steps Arts Quarter, where some of the oldest buildings in the city still survive. Once he’s finished there, he’ll be moving on to other areas, so be sure to keep checking back for more adventures.

Click here to read the latest part.