Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

Ribena or apple juice cartons

Real life intervened yesterday and prevented me from entering the write-invite.com competition, for the second week running.  This means that I cannot post last week’s story this week (and neither will I be able to post this week’s story next week). 

As I said in ‘Burglar’s Letter’, I always intended this to be a literary blog, and not a stream of consciousness or a catalogue of the vicissitudes of everyday life.  However, I am led to believe that building up a decent following is all about making regular contributions, and so what follows is something of a stream of consciousness, influenced by the vicissitudes of everyday life.

In July 2011, I wrote an article for my friend Claire Jone’s website, entitled ‘Getting the most from your small notebook’.  You can find it here:


I take my small notebook everywhere.  I deliberately make no division between literary entries (many of which are just fragmentary phrases to describe things like customers in pubs or restaurants) and intrusions from real life, such as shopping lists.  What you end up with, of necessity, is a kind of textual soup, which needs a lot of later filtering and blending before it is intellectually edible.  The idea is to make the soup as concentrated and nourishing as possible. 

Here is a brief and complete summary of what my current notebook contains for the month of November.

3rd: 1 page of WiP (work-in-progress) lyrics for a pastiche of a popular song in which I attempt to personify the English language.

4th: 1 page of listing of what alcohol I had drunk that day.  2 pages of doodling that Jane and I drew while we were in an old-fashioned pub in Leeds called The Templar (and no, we did not meet Dan Brown, I am glad to say).  1 blank page.  A page which bears the words, written in large letters, “And I Miss You”, Everything But The Girl, which I had intended to use as a message to a man at the controls of a karaoke session in Wakefield, but we left before I had had time to do this. 

5th: 1 page showing a sketch of part of the wall of my bathroom, including the dimensions of the cabinet that I intend to fix there.  1 page listing the names of some race horses I put bets on at a meeting at Doncaster.  None of them won.  1 page of shopping list.

7th: The receipt code for a story I sent to The Fiction Desk. 

8th: Some jottings which were the beginning of the piece I wrote for this blog  entitled ‘Christmas cake’.

11th: Some jottings I wrote for the piece entitled ‘Armistice Day 11/11/2011’.  Some jottings I wrote while I was eating a meal in Pizza Express in Leeds.  A few words to do with my last Open University assignment, which is a piece of life-writing about my mother, father, and me.  Details of an appointment with my  doctor.

16th: 1 page of proceedings of the book club that I attend at my place of work.  Half a page of an idea for a stage-play prompted by thoughts about my late mother’s wine cellar.  The ISBN numbers for ‘Outside the Asylum’.

18th: The signatures that Jane and I set down when we had the idea for a literature festival in Horbury.

20th: A list of items to be bought from an Asian takeaway called ‘Abdul’s’.  The name of a radio play by Michael Stewart (one of the those that I parodied in ‘Pills by Michael Stewart’).  The phone number of the agency which was coming to repair my dishwasher.

22nd: (the day of the ‘Grist’ launch party) a drinks order written in block capital letters because the members of  ‘Sambalifax’ were playing so loudly that it seemed easier to write the order down rather than shout above the noise.  A few reflections I wanted to retain that arose from a conversation with the poets David Gill and Gaia Holmes.  The name of some-one I had never met before who wanted me to add her as a friend on Facebook.

25th: a shopping list.  A few scribblings from when I was in an Italian restaurant in Ossett with The Jays*.

It is too early to say whether I will be able to make any of this into a piece of writing.  My philosophy is that the main difference between writers and those who merely want to be writers is that writers write (something – anything – it doesn’t matter – just get it down) whereas TWMWTBW just think about writing things down.  Because they never write anything down, the vital stage of the maturation process never begins, and so they never produce any finished product.  What TWMWTBW do (or don’t do) with pen, paper and word processor is logically equivalent to trying to make wine by merely thinking about growing grapes.

*My collective name for Jane and Jared.


2 responses to “Ribena or apple juice cartons

  1. wthirskgaskill November 30, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Please don’t apologise: that is what 15-piece community samba bands are for.

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