Tag Archives: creative writing

Book blurb

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From the front flap of a dust jacket of an uncorrected proof of an unpublished anonymous memoir

In 1984, the author took a sabbatical from his job as an indexer to research a famous biographer and historian who’d recently died. In the archive of her notebooks and papers he was astonished to discover she was preparing his own biography. Up till then he’d had no illusions that his life was anything but humdrum, ordinary and unworthy of note.

As he shifted through her clippings and jottings he found she’d painted a word portrait of him as an individual whose every word and deed had unimaginably far-reaching effects. This was the life-story of a man who’d inadvertently caused murders to be committed, injudicious political decisions to be made, markets to tumble — in other words, he’d been someone starting to change the course of world history, and he’d had absolutely no idea.

As he compares his ordinary life (as he sees it) with the biographer’s inexhaustible documentation and her critique of his actions he wonders at her obsessive chronicling and stockpiling of material — letters, emails, certificates, news clippings, photographs — and starts to think he’s noticed a note of derision and sarcasm creeping in.

There’s only one thing to do to get to the root of the matter — he has to start writing a biography of his would-be biographer and be as obsessive about her as she was about him. And she turns out to have even more secrets than he apparently had.

Continued on back flap

© C A Lovegrove

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Report

Report on Einstein-Rosen bridge experiment #1, Ganymede, Jupiter

Preamble

• I am Albert, a 31st-generation artificial intelligence robot built expressly to enter the Einstein-Rosen bridge constructed on the Jovian moon Ganymede.
• My mission is to be in position at the event horizon at point T (0.00 temporal units, recalibrated). This horizon will be artificially created to be optimally functional at point T to allow passage along the Einstein-Rosen bridge.
• This report will be transmitted at T direct to station Juno in Jovian orbit.
• For this experiment I shall also be internally transporting this report for the duration of the passage along the bridge. If delivered intact and uncorrupted it will demonstrate that the shielding design has been successful.

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Colour palette

For TV dramas set in hospitals the general rule is that nothing – neither sets, costume nor location shots – should include the colour red. Why? This is because it may limit the impact when blood is first introduced into the action. Apparently the shock of that crimson fluid staining a largely monochrome palate produces an atavistic reaction in most people, especially when it’s allied to a storyline that raises expectations of an immanent coup-de-théâtre.

Of course, I knew all about colour palettes, the theory of which all Art students must have in order to make it instinctive in practice. Maybe you imagine I was a struggling artist in an airy garret; the truth is I had to make do with a basement flat in a Victorian semi, with only a little light coming in front and back. This wasn’t ideal, but as it was billed as a ‘garden flat’ at least I got a consistent green tinge to that light through most of the year. And as it was all I could afford in my last year at Art College, hey, who’s complaining?

There was little to complain of. I got negligible hassle from my landlord, who lived above. I tried to be a model tenant – no loud music, no raucous parties, TV kept down at night. He himself was rarely noisy, though I did sometimes hear him pad-pad-padding around, there being little carpeting on his wooden floors. He rarely bothered me, only popping down occasionally to check if everything was alright. The flat’s Spartan conditions were no bother to me: in any case, that particular day I was far too busy trying to get work completed for my final exhibition to worry about tired décor in need of an overhaul. As every space was crowded with artwork being prepped for the Degree Show the anaglypta wallpaper and mismatched furniture were the least of my concerns.

Mr Legge came down a couple of times while I was laying out the work – mostly two-dimensional – which I’d selected for the show. I sensed little genuine interest; he hardly spoke but seemed preoccupied. A couple of hours later he came down for the second time. After some desultory conversation I asked if anything was on his mind. After some umm-ing and ah-ing he mumbled something about rent. As I’d paid upfront till the end of term I was somewhat puzzled. It turned out that he was asking if, after paying the rent, I had any spare money; naturally, as a near-impecunious student I hadn’t. Clearly embarrassed he mumbled some more — sorry he’d asked, he’d try other sources, forget about it, didn’t mean to disturb – and slowly went out, the door clicking quietly behind him. I heard some quiet steps above, some muffled thumps and bangs, and then the accustomed silence.

I ought to have questioned him more, but my mind too was elsewhere: the Degree Show loomed. I went back to laying out the canvases and mixed-media pieces. To catch the most of the natural light these were placed across the floor, the walls being too much in the shade. The theme I’d adopted to link the pieces was Metamorphoses, and I was trying to sequence them to create a narrative. Adjacent pieces would reveal commonalities while simultaneously shape-shifting and evolving across the collection. The palette was muted, some greens, purples, pale lilacs, but mostly a lot of greys across the spectrum, from ash-white to lava black. I experimented, leaping up and down from the vantage point of a bench pushed against the wall, moving and rearranging, considering, finalising.

The sequence was complete. The largest canvas, the most starkly monochrome with bare hints of leaf-green and lily-white, was placed at the climax of the sequence. I felt both elated and quietly satisfied. It was done.

I was suddenly aware something wasn’t right. There was a darkness on the canvas where I hadn’t expected it. A rusty patch was apparent off-centre, a Venetian red which upset the subtle colour balance I’d worked so hard to achieve. It seemed to expand, accompanied by a soft but insistent pat-pat-pat, as if Mr Legge was pacing his room. And at that moment I thought – no, I knew – that it wasn’t Mr Legge’s footsteps that I was hearing; and that it wasn’t red paint that was disfiguring the picture.


This is my effort for the short fiction assignment on the theme of red that we were given for creative writing classes. First published 4th February 2016 on Calmgrove. © C A Lovegrove

Penmanship

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Long before smartphones, laptops, computers, typewriters, there were pencils to scribble with and ink pens to dip into bottles and ink wells.

And faced with a blank sheet of paper and contemplating the bottomless well of a blank brain he might have resorted to chewing the end of the dipping pen or pencil. Impossible now, of course.

His grown-up children had long exhorted him to write up his memories of childhood in exotic places when the world was young, before they were born. But what he couldn’t settle down to, what had eluded him so far, was the voice to use.

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Dressing-gown

WPC Wendy Bowyer spoke briefly on her radio before she stepped up the garden path of number 19 and knocked on the door. A tear-stained Mandy flung open the door almost immediately – she must have been waiting in the passageway – and starting gabbling, sobs breaking up her sentences.

“It’s alright, Mrs Winstanley,” Wendy politely but firmly interrupted, using the calming approach born of long practice, “we’ll do the best we can to sort this all out.” Shutting the door behind her she added, “Why don’t you show me his bedroom?” Mandy stumbled up the stairs, Wendy noticing she’d had time to throw on a t-shirt, jeans and t-shirt. The compact room led off the first-floor landing; a stick-on label was attached to the door, the figure of Darth Vader pointing at the stencilled name SAMMY in block capitals.

“Have you touched anything?” she asked, while motioning Mandy to stay by the door. “Only the window, to open it a bit more…” was the almost whispered reply. Wendy took in the scene – the rumpled bed, the few scattered Lego bricks on the floor, the illustrated encyclopaedia open by the bed – all the usual pre-teen paraphernalia. Already she was forming a picture in her mind: the open window, the boy taken out of his bed, the intruder carrying him out onto the low roof outside and away. Her initial suspicion was estranged husband rather than unknown abductor – but best not to tell Mrs Winstanley that just yet, keep it formal.

Instinctively her sweep of the room took in the abandoned slipper by the window, the lack of a counterpart for the left foot, the empty clothes peg on the back of the door. The relatively tidy room told her volumes about the boy, enough to suspect that he was not yet the careless teenager her own son had developed into. Her next methodical question to Mandy was therefore consistent with logic.

“Does Sammy normally put on a dressing-gown when he gets out of bed?”

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A grey slipper

Mrs W was sobbing when she answered the door, trying to tell me what had happened but in her distress unable to get a coherent sequence out. I tried to calm her, speaking in an as matter-of-fact tone as possible while remaining sympathetic.

I let her lead me upstairs to the bedroom. “Have you touched anything, moved anything?” I asked her. “Nothing, nothing,” she began, then, “I, um, opened the window wider to see if I could see him, or anything…” Her voice trailed away.

I left her in the doorway and stepped carefully into the room. The bed had obviously been slept in, but the bedclothes had been roughly thrown aside, as though the boy had been pulled out of bed before he was fully awake. There was a picture book lying open on the floor, with a scatter of plastic toys – Star Wars Lego, that sort of thing.

I glanced out of the open sash window. There was a lean-to roof just below the sill, making it easy to climb in and out of the window. “Is this usually locked?” I asked Mrs W. “If was quite warm last night,” she offered as an excuse.

My eye fell on a grey slipper by the window, as if dropped. Where’s the other one, I wondered. A quick search under the bed and under the bedclothes didn’t reveal anything. Did he have time to put on his slippers first? Does this mean he knew his visitor?

“What are you looking for?” whispered his mother. Instead of answering I checked behind the door: the clothes peg was empty.

“Does he normally wear a dressing-gown out of bed?” I asked, but I already knew the answer.

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The party’s over

Hooray! The bright flag bunting now is out,
fluttering festively in a light breeze,
festooning the branches of the trees,
lemon, bronze, beige, hung about
the path that winds through the wood.

Now, though, they’ve become dry brittle pages,
their supports the bars of strong stout cages.
Ageing paperbacks falling apart would
trail across my vision in such a way.

Beneath my feet they crunch and crack,
the golds and scarlets spread across the track
mingling with tan, and dun, and grey.

Soon early winter’s drizzle will send a brook
cascading down the slope, the stones and sludge
a dreary carpet on which to trudge.

The party’s over; autumn’s done, so close the book.

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The unkind question

For E. L.

So when you asked if being deaf or blind
which one I’d choose, if choice I had to take,
the options offered hurt, made my heart ache
to realise I’d have to be resigned
to sight or sound; the question was unkind.

Not hear her voice? What, no, for heavens sake!
Or not see her each morning when I wake?
I think I would soon start to lose my mind.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea
or that hard place that stands against the rock
you’d have me lie. Well, I won’t take my pick,
I’ll have them both for surely both suit me.
Until the final tick comes out of clock
against such awful choices I shall kick.


The homework for the poetry writing class was to write a sonnet;
I chose to write a Petrarchan sonnet, with a rhyme scheme abba abba cde cde

He lay there

He lay there, there in the room
where he’d had his office,
where his papers, neatly filed,
filled the folders boxed up on his shelves

He lay there, there on his back
as though snoozing, skin so sallow
for all the embalmer’s art,
silent, chinless, still judgemental.

Did I feel bereft? Or merely empty?

Would I no longer suffer an appraising glance,
a carping comment or a critical silence?
Would I still be found wanting, a vaporous wastrel,
failing any potential I ever possessed?

He lay there, there in the room
where he’d had his office,
where his still body, sweetly smelling,
filled the coffin, a box to himself


Piece written for creative writing course on poetry, the brief being to compose a poem based on a personal experience

 

Welcome spring’s on its way

From March through to May
farewell hard frost, mists and storm;
welcome spring’s on its way.
Bye to sky’s steel grey!
Now freezing rain becomes warm
from March through to May.
Hail, lengthening day,
dark nights no longer the norm!
Welcome spring’s on its way.
Sun, slip in that ray
through the shutters each morn
from March through to May
so that each new day
makes us all glad that we’re born;
welcome spring’s on its way.

Hear now what I say: seasons reform, don’t conform.
From March through to May welcome spring’s on its way.


Another villanelle on the subject of Spring, this time the five tercets are in senryu form and the final quatrain written out as a couplet.

When winter’s snow at last

When winter’s snow at last begins to thaw
and buds and blossoms start their sumptuous show
we sense the seasons cease their senseless war.

First snowdrops shyly peer out to explore
the scene, then daffodils with golden glow
when winter’s snow at last begins to thaw.

Faint breezes fan our brows, no longer raw,
and short rain showers substitute for snow.
We sense the seasons cease their senseless war

now celandines have lit the forest floor
and dancing daisies over grassland grow,
when winter’s snow at last begins to thaw.

Moist fat balls, seeds and mealworms, they’re the store
that blackbirds, tits and finches want to know.
We sense the seasons cease their senseless war.

The border’s down; breath held, we watch in awe
with next-door neighbour now a friend, not foe.
When winter’s snow at last begins to thaw
we sense the seasons cease their senseless war.


Villanelle on ‘spring’ written in response to a creative writing course poetry assignment

Two Little Dickie Birds

When I was little our mum used to keep budgies. They were all colours – green, blue, yellow, white – but they were so noisy. My sister and I couldn’t stand it, chirpy-chirp-chirp all day, even at night until the cloth was put over their cage. But she loved them, our mum did, she talked to them, taught them sentences and rhymes, even recorded them on an old-fashioned tape recorder.

She gave them names, too. Georgie was one, and she taught it “Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry” – except it never learnt to say the last word and stopped with the words “and made them,” which was annoying.

Mostly they were called Joey. “Hello, Joey!” it would say to itself, and “Who’s a pretty boy, Joey?” This was very annoying.

After one of the Joey birds died she got a pair. She called them Peter and Paul, like in the nursery rhyme:

Two little dickie birds sitting on a wall,
One named Peter, one named Paul.

This didn’t make sense because one of them was a girl and should have been called Paula or Polly, but mum still called it Paul. Peter was blue and Polly (that’s what us kids called it) was green. Peter learnt to say

Fly away Peter, fly away Paul,
Come back Peter, come back Paul.

There was this trick our mum showed us when we were little, with bits of tissue attached to two fingers, but I thought it was silly teaching it to the budgies because I remember thinking it would give them ideas about flying away.

One day it happened. Peter managed to get out the back door while mum was hanging out the washing. It definitely wasn’t my fault. Anyway, mum started shouting and we all rushed out into the garden, me, my sister and my dad. “He’s flown into the trees behind the garages!” she said, and sure enough we could see a bit of blue halfway up a tree. Our dad got out a ladder but I could see he’d only frighten the bird so I said I’d go up it.

So I did go up, and at the top I had to leave the ladder and use branches for my hands and feet. I was just reaching out with my left hand, quietly saying, “Come back, Peter, come back,” when my dad chucked a stone. It hit the branch Peter was sitting on and he flew away. I don’t know why he threw the stone; maybe he was fed up with all the chirping about Peter and Paul flying away.

Anyway, soon after that Polly died – it was from a broken heart, mum said – and mum got another budgie, a yellow one. She called it Joey. It never learnt to talk, just chirped.

Dad seemed to spend more time in the garage after that, but I never found out why.


  • Written for a creative writing class homework on writing for children.
    Budgerigars are also known as parakeets