Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Bei Mir Bist Du Shayn

The sky was unusually clear. Orion’s Belt was visible, which for North London was nothing short of a miracle. They walked side by side, hands shovelled into warm pockets of winter coats. Her nose was pink from the brisk midnight air, and he was a little concerned for her.

“Are you cold?” he asked into the silence, not really knowing what he would do if she was.
“No,” she replied, turning to face him with a grin, “are you cold?” His shivering had given him away.
“A bit.”
She stopped walking. “Do you want to head back?” Now it was her turn to look concerned.
“I’ll be alright for the minute.” He looked into her dark quizzical eyes. ‘I was just worried about you.’ he told her in his head.
“Ayoy, where’s your chutzpah huh?” They started forward again. “I tell you what, you’d last about five minutes in Poland. If you didn’t freeze to death, you’d probably be kalashnikoved for being a massive pansy.”
“Since when have you been to Poland?”
“Since when have you not? Jesus man, you’re a worse Jew than I thought. You gotta go, pay some respect to our Hebros. Besides, the Jew Card comes in handy when making vaguely uncouth jokes. For example, you’re only actually allowed to laugh at Auschwitz if you’re a Jew. Fact.”
“That is absolute bollocks. Surely no-one should be laughing at Auschwitz.”
“If that’s what you think, you should see the Israelis. They go absolutely mental there; waving banners, singing songs, whole shebang. Doesn’t count for gays, or gypsies, or communists, or any other persecuted minorities. It’s just the Jews that have free reign. Seems a bit unfair, but uhm, all’s fair in clichés and war, allegedly.” He tried not to laugh. She regularly came out with oddly inappropriate comments.
“I should be horribly offended by you. Besides, I’m an actual Jew, you’re just a hanger-oner.”
“This is not the How Jewish Are You competition. And even if it was, I would definitely win, even if by a mere technicality. I may know nothing more about Judaism than Hava Nagila, but I’d beat you hands down.”
“That’s what I mean! Surely genuinely being Jewish ranks higher than some weird religious loop hole. What’s your obsession with it anyway? If you love us so much, why not just, you know, convert.”
“Way too much effort man.” She laughed, then spoke with sudden sincerity. “In all seriousness though, I mainly hype up the Jewishness for comedic effect. Wouldn’t ever want to offend anyone, not really. But still, you know, Jewish people get a lot of shtick.”
“Shitck? Really?”
“Shlip of the tongue, apologies. Maybe I just want to be Woody Allen.”
“You sound more like Sean Connery.”
“Whatever,” she smirked, with a dramatic wave of her hand, “the Jewish thing kind of started when I was in a Warsaw ghetto museum and someone made a stupid joke. I mean, I’m down with ‘casual racism’ to an extent, well so to speak, as long as it’s funny and not just plain ignorant and insulting. I think it’s only funny when it’s mocking people that genuinely believe it to be true. Do you know what I mean?”
“Yeah, no, no, I know what you mean. Racist people make me sick.”
“Exactly! This is exactly what I’m saying right. Racist people are fucking morons, there we go. Seriously don’t get me started. But do I offend you?”
“Of course not.”
“I didn’t think so. Anyway, so some douche made a comment about Jews, which was actually pretty bog standard and not even funny, so I pulled the Jew Card. Look on his face was absolutely beautiful; I genuinely wish I could have like, bottled it for later. Since then, well I guess I became a sort of highly vocal supporter of Jews. There are enough people being vocal against Jews, still, even just as a joke, but they talk about them being really stingy or whatever.."
He grabbed her hand, “Hold that thought.”
“I want to show you something! Come here. Look, you can see all the way across London.”
“It’s, it’s really beautiful.”
“Yeah, good night for it too. Usually it’s pretty misty.” He pulled her close to him, and pointed out across the very early morning skyline. “You can even see St Paul’s.” They stood for a moment or two, looking over their city.
“Anyway,” he hesitated, absorbing the moment, “what were you saying? Vocal Jews?”
“Oh God, I can’t even remember. Bum. Uhm…oh, you smell nice, by the way.” He blushed violently. “But seriously though, it takes people like you and me to be, you know, supportive or whatever. Now I’m not trying to be dramatic, but the more it’s made out like it’s okay to say shit about Jews, the more okay it becomes. The more okay it becomes, the more people believe it. It’s that sort of thing that got them in such a bloody mess in the first place; social propaganda.”
“I wouldn’t want to revert to the political correctness madness we had a couple of years ago.”
“Know what you mean, but casual racism is a weird thing. Right, it’s like, well, apparently it’s now okay for the Shitty Daily Fucking Mail to condemn all immigrants and make them all out as bad guys, because it became okay for lazy, moronic yet technically English people to say it among themselves. I hate that fucking paper. I see people reading it on the tube, and I just want to Spartan kick them.”
“Wow. It’s not that bad…”
“But it really is that bad, that’s the thing. Granted, it’s mostly pretty blatantly done, but occasionally it’s a bit subversive and that’s scary. Absolute bollocks, all of it. Some people would say I’m a hypocrite but look, I never say anything outright offensive. Never.” She paused, smilingly wickedly, “Way too much of a wuss.”
“That bit about gays at Auschwitz probably shouldn’t be heard out of context.”
“But it’s true! 100% true. The Israeli groups literally cut about with flags, stereos, food. But, if you had a gay pride group wandering about with a rainbow flag and macaroons, they’d get a different reception. Simple as. It’s a statistics thing.”
“Why do the Israelis even have flags?”
“Yeah, did seem a bit weird, and some people got a bit offended by it. Everyone else does the tour in silence really. But when you think about it, maybe the Israelis have got the right idea. Funerals are meant to be a celebration of life these days, right? Look back, even just a couple of decades, and if you were wearing anything other than black it was deemed pretty bloody disrespectful. Ideas change though, perceptions change, and most people want their mourners to wear something a bit more...lively; excuse the pun. Same deal. Same fucking deal. The Israelis are celebrating their defeat of Hitler. He wanted to wipe them out, Final Solution – you know the drill, but they’re still here and now they even have a homeland. That’s a pretty fucking awesome achievement. So they make merry, and there you go.”
“So you feel quite strongly about it then.”
She laughed. “It would seem so. I can only apologise.” Her head dipped in a bow, “Here endeth the rant.”

They walked on in a comfortable silence, save the occasional sniff, looking at the Victorian houses on either side. He shuffled closer to her, and she instinctively snaked her arm through his and clung onto his bicep. She was almost a foot smaller than him, but he'd never had such a perfect fit.

Hello again! No fiction modules this term, but I've got some left over from last semester. The task for this week was to be all dialogue. This is a conversation I've had in parts with lots of people, but with one Faux-Jew in particular. They gave me 'hebro', which I think is excellent. I'd be interested to know which side of the casual racist line this sits. Another story about Jews, I know. I just can't help myself. There's big love there. There are some really long bits that I suppose don't reflect actual speech, unless you're talking to me about Jews, so that's why I added in 'Here endeth the rant.' Oh, and if you happened to read my portfolio pieces, you might recognise the odd bit from here! I wrote this first and ran out of things to say in the newer piece. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Self-plagiarism is lovely.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Portfolio Pieces

It’s the thought that crisis bites. 

They sat, as it was customary to do, around an enormous table. The table stretched from one side of the Grand Hall to the other, with two sitting at each end and dozens sitting along each side. It was laden high with Builder’s Tea and Instant Coffee, Tesco’s Bourbons and Costcutter’s Custard Creams, buckling under the weight of all the complimentary refreshments. The water cooler hummed pleasantly to itself in the corner, seemingly unaware of the grandeur of the event that was taking place that evening.

Very soon the guests would be taking part in an Incredibly Important Political Debate, one of universal significance and validity, and they had travelled from across the globe in order to attend. Chinese Panda sat contentedly at the table between Bolivian Boa Constrictor and Kyrgyz Mole, all of whom were discussing the current joviality in the Middle East. Down the other end of the table, clustered in Alpine solidarity, sat Italian Bat, French Deer and Swiss Marmot. They were similarly discussing the development of cheeriness between Israel and Palestine, between Iraq and Iran. Only one of the representatives from the Middle East had been invited to attend that evening, and keeping it a secret from the rest of them had proved extremely difficult. Saudi Arabian Pelican, in the middle of it all as usual, had been bribed somewhat into silence, and his presence was proving a little awkward. Chitter chatter rippled across the table, everyone in anticipation of the arrival of their prestigious host.

After what seemed like quite a long wait, God finally appeared.

“Welcome, everyone, thank you for your attendance. I hope the representatives that are the focus of our discussion are not here tonight, and have no awareness of our intention to meet?”

Everyone cast a sideways glance at Saudi Arabian Pelican, who grinned inanely and nodded in confirmation of their ignorance.

“Fine,” said God, unenthusiastically. He hovered cross-legged in the middle of the table, and absent-mindedly picked up a custard cream. Taking this as a cue, everyone else tucked in, ravenous after having stared at the refreshments for such a long time. The tea was lukewarm and the biscuits had gone soft, but nobody seemed to mind.

“Let us begin. If I understand correctly, American Bison, you have called this meeting in order to rectify the recent peace that has occurred in the Middle East?”

“Correct. Due to the new-found understanding between Israel and Palestine, Israel has decided to end the Free Trade Agreement with us. We were receiving $20 billion worth of import from Israel each year! Do you understand the impact this has on the American economy?” American Bison had risen from his seat, blowing steam from his nostrils as he grunted his case to the table. “It is now more economically viable to seek import from the European Union. It is entirely unacceptable.” With that he sat down and furiously inhaled a large mug of coffee.

Belgian Swan, who represented the European Union, rose from her seat to retort. “You will find, American Bison, that those of us who implicitly chose to trade fairly with Israel continue to do so. Throughout the peace agreement the EU has managed to retain all of our trading agreements. Suffice to say that your behaviour towards Middle Eastern countries of late has been abysmal at best and undoubtedly vicious.” Her wings flapped wildly and knocked over the mugs of several unsuspecting countries in her path.

English Badger stood up to speak, but in fear of insulting either Belgian Swan or American Bison, he swiftly sat down again and gazed longingly into his empty cup of tea. He desperately needed another, but after the initial rush nothing but crumbs and dregs remained. Although everyone continued to listen to Belgian Swan politely, who was still berating American Bison for his uncivil behaviour, some countries’ focus had started to wander. Indian Tiger was seeing Spanish Boar in a new and delicious light.

After hissing out her final grievances, Belgian Swan returned to her seat and Singaporean Bullfrog attempted to command the attention of the room. Unfortunately, Canadian Racoon appeared to be less interested in what he had to say on Middle Eastern politics and more interested in what his fat, amphibian hind legs might taste like. In his excitement Singaporean Bullfrog hopped wildly across the table, occasionally pausing to gesticulate, without concentrating on where he was going. With a final poignant remark, he hopped backwards unsuspectingly into the open jaws of Mexican Coyote.

For a mere moment, all was silence.

Then for quite a long time, all was pandemonium.

Nonchalantly picking the crumbs out of his beard, God sighed. He stood up, picked his way through the chaos and, with a sense of deja-vu, hit the flood button.

This is the first piece for my portfolio. The task was to write a surreal story and I got myself in a right tizz over it. The "furiously inhaled" bit is crossed out because my tutor didn't like it, but I can't think of what else to put there! Suggestions gratefully received.

It had to get better

She sat, blurred and grinning, in a gutter. The drain beside her gurgled pleasantly. Home was here now. The house she had grown up in was miles away and mostly forgotten. If she concentrated, she could remember the low ceilings, the swirls in the coving sloppily done. The carpet in the hall was heavily patterned, to hide the dirt. She could feel the grit and hair under foot, as though she was there now. With eyes tight shut, she clenched her toes in the moonlight. It was not recommended to go barefoot at number 34, or Dirty Floor as the girls at school called it. The hallway. She could remember the hallway. The huge door, too big for the house and aspiring to grandeur, dominated the long hall which seemed to narrow towards it. Pictures sat on walls, copies of paintings in cheap frames, sneering down disapprovingly on the surroundings. The light by the door had never worked. She had shuffled through the darkness to escape.

The stairs loomed ahead as she found herself taking a stroll through her memories. In the middle of the hall, the staircase, with its deep, uneven steps, stretched out endlessly. The varnish had all but gone from the wooden bannister, worn away by years of fingers and neglect. She reached out and felt the rough familiarity of the post. Her father had said it was a newel.

"Newel." The word billowed out into the night. She opened her eyes in surprise and the house drifted away. The darkness continued to cascade around her. Closing her eyes, she told herself the spinning would stop. It did, and she was in her father's study, to the left of the stairs. Books were stacked row upon row, reaching up past the chipped picture rail to the ceiling. The old dining table, abused and dilapidated, sat ignored against the far wall. Cracks ran across the wooden top and the legs were crippled with rot. In the opposite corner was a space, between the book shelves and behind the door, that was just big enough for her to squeeze into. It was here - she had never forgotten that - she would sit as her parents screamed fire and brimstone at each other. She would wait for her father to return, beaten down by her mother and her obsessions, to take her hand and tell her everything would get better. She would be a famous jazz singer, and they would all live happily in the city together. It had to get better.

The kitchen beckoned, calling to her from the back of the house. Her mother's domain, from where she ruled over the household; the tyrant, the hoarder. As the kitchen materialised in front of her, she tried to forget the festering cups where old tea dregs bore fruit. She tried to forget the piles of boxes that would, allegedly, someday be of use. She tried to forget vase upon vase of dead flowers, the glass opaque with stagnant water. Her mother could never throw flowers away. “Always remember the dead,” she demanded, “You cannot let go of the memories.” Nothing got better. She sighed, opened her eyes, and watched the house melt away again. It hadn't felt like home since her father had signed up. From her current spot between a drain and a puddle she gazed into the dusty midnight sky. It was always cloudy in London, as though the inhabitants shone too brightly for the threatened stars to look upon. The city was shrouded in jealousy, and she was to be envied indeed.

Maybe it was the smog that made her head spin; it was in her lungs, it penetrated her soul and smothered her mind. It was invasive, just like her city. Every inch of her was filled with London, from the smut of the East, through the ever-illuminated West to the South, where your accent was welcome and your pint half-full, to the woozy and hypnotic heights of the North. Running her hands through her newly bobbed hair she surveyed the street. Music poured out of the open door of the Coconut Grove as a couple of bright young things started making their way home, heads thrown back in laughter, fur coats skipping over the pavement. She had been in the nightclub herself not too long ago, dancing wildly. When the room had started whirling around her, rather than her around it, she had decided to get some fresh air.

She stood up and swayed momentarily in the darkness. One foot determinedly dragged itself in front of the other. Her forehead creased in concentration. The pavement ebbed and flowed before her, but she focused on her destination and staggered resolutely down the street. Somewhere in the unrecognisable distance, someone was playing a saxophone. The melody leaked out of a window and into her head, mixing with the noises of late night London. “JAZZ!” her mother squealed in her ears, “Not my daughter.” She slipped sideways, her face suddenly against brick. The voice reverberated around her brain. There was a pause. Everything went black, everything was silent. She could see the silhouette of her mother, hysterical and enraged. It wasn't so scary anymore. Smiling to herself, she opened her eyes and pushed herself off of the wall.

Walking seemed to get a lot easier. As she turned the corner onto Hampstead Heath, Parliament Hill suddenly stood proudly in front of her. Her hands were shovelled into the warm pockets of her winter coat, and her nose turned pink from the brisk midnight air as she slowly made her way towards the summit. The sky was unusually clear at the top. She gazed towards the heavens. Orion’s Belt was visible, “Which for North London”, she thought to herself, “is nothing short of a miracle.”
Her father grabbed her hand, “Hold that thought. I want to show you something. Look, you can see all the way across London.”
“I know. It’s beautiful.” He pulled her close to him, and pointed out across the very early morning skyline. “You can even see St Paul’s.” They stood for a moment or two, looking over their city. She could smell him, a mixture of pipe tobacco and old leather gloves.
“I miss you.” She whispered, still staring out over the horizon.
“I know. Life is hard. Some people are fortunate, and some people are less so. You, my dear,” he squeezed her shoulders, “are one of the lucky ones. Never forget that.” She turned round and looked at the empty hilltop. The trees were inextricably intertwined, their limbs knotted: a branch here, a bough there, a stem binding them together. They danced easily in the breeze. The ground was still now. She knew that the morning would arrive with a headache, but for now, right now, everything was perfect.

This is the second piece. The task was to write a story that involved a location where the person was sad and a location where they were happy. The last 200 odd words are mostly stolen from other things I have written. Cheeky! Let me know what you think of both of them...all advice appreciated!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Witches in Tescos

[Three sisters outside a supermarket. They always do their shopping in the same place and on the same day each week. They are also the only witching sisters in the town.]

When shall we three meet again?
In aisle three, aisle nine, or fast lane?
When the shopping is all done,
Shall we walk or homeward run?
Depends on if the bus has gone.
Where the place?
Beside the caf'.
After we meet with our Kath.
Let us go, therein.
Tesco calls:-anon:-
Best is fresh, and fresh is best.
We'll do the list and complete our quest.

[They enter and initially go separate ways before accidentally meeting at the pie counter.]

Where hast thou been, sister?
Killing time.
Sister, where thou?
A salesman approached me at the door,
And spoke and spoke and spoke:-"No thanks," quoth I:
"Double glazing!" the desp'rate peddler cries.
His dignity's to Heaven gone, master o' the windows.
With my basket I turn'd my tail
From this poor man without a sale.
No good, no good, just no good.
Thou should'st feel bad.
Art thou mad?
Calm down, my sisters!
If we were in the dark mid-winter,
Were he a cold impoverished man
Who called to me with open hand,
I'd not be so harsh.
But you'll find 'tis not the case:
Arriving at the shopping place,
Not expecting questions many
Or to be asked for all my penny,
He leapt upon my passing frame,
And for his loss I'll take no blame.
P'rhaps my action was not fair,
For double glazing, I do not care!
Look what I have.
Show me, show me.
Here I have a Whiskers crate;
Our cats at home will celebrate.

[ANNA rings the bell to summon an employee.]

The bell, the bell!
Pie-Man, schnell!

[Pie-Man enters and looks exasperatedly at the sisters. The same thing happens every week.]

The local witches, hand in hand,
Belong to a benevolent band,
Thus do go to purchase pie:
Steak and kidney, mint and lamb,
One last choice, we'll pea and ham:—
Slice!—the order's up.

All hail, Pie-Man! Hail to thee, Thane of Pastry!
All hail, Pie-Man! Hail to thee, Thane of Filling!
All hail, Pie-Man! That shalt be supervisor hereafter!
Lesser than manager, and greater.
Not so responsible, yet more noble.

[Pie-Man gives them the pie. Exeunt. The sisters continue together.]

Round about the shop we go;
No snail on Earth were e'er this slow.
We must make haste; I'll go ahead
To fetch the fresh baked cakes and bread.
Middle sister, buy other foods,
We'll join at the checkout with our goods.
Now your job, babe of our throng,
Is to fix what hence went wrong.
Bubble, bubble, toilet trouble;
Buy a plunger on the double.

[The sisters separate. BARBARA and ANNA exeunt.]

Fillet of a fatty cow,
Four rump steaks reduce-d now;
Can of beans, and case of Coke,
Box of eggs, without the yolk.
Jar of chutney, deli chicken,
Herbal tea bags - good for Wiccan.
All these things I've found with ease,
Not including frozen peas.

[BARBARA and ANNA enter. Sisters all go to checkout 2, the fast lane. Kath always works on lane 2; the sisters are prepared to queue for any amount of time to pay with her despite not having 10 items or less.]

Why, how now, Kath? You look wrathful.

Have I not reason, in bedlam such as this,
To be not content? How I would not miss
The chaos of the checkout, mayhem indeed!
My days are spent mine eyes on swede,
J-cloths, spatulas, croissant, pork.
Rosé, bubbly, screw-top, cork.
I'm here all hours to play my part,
Whilst they deny that 'tis an art
To scan at speed, to move with ease,
To cope with old men and their sleaze.
Spiteful and raging, those who queue
And have to wait a minute or two.
Like animals, the shoppers howl
When they can't find the kitchen towel.
So I, the leopard of the staff
Track down their prey on their behalf.
My only respite in the week
Is when you're here and we all speak.
But the line is long: get you gone,
'twas nice to see you and we'll meet on
Next Saturday morning:
With tired men and ladies yawning.
Farewell, be safe, and see you soon,
Wish me well for my afternoon.

The task this week was to include a metaphor, some alliteration...other stuff. It all felt a bit contrived. The original story was about a town that hadn't had any rain for five years, even though everywhere else had. A bit surreal and it didn't go anywhere. Then on the Saturday I went to my Nanna's nursing home with Auntie Barbara and Mother for a Halloween do. Nanna, Auntie and Mother were dressed as the three sisters from Macbeth and I was their honorary friend. Afterwards I went to Morrisons with Mother, still dressed as witches. The concept tickled me for some reason. I'm not sure if this counts as plagiarism as I copied the meter of the three sisters from Macbeth for this piece and just fiddled with what they were saying. I can't even count it for my fiction module as it's not in the correct format. But it was a lot of fun to write, and if you like it I may carry it over to my drama module this term. The three witches are named after my three aunts; let me just say that I don't think they are witches, but the idea amused me. Cue three angry texts from my mother's sisters. Oh, and Kath kind of rhymes with caf'. I really wish I had a picture of my relatives at the Halloween tea party, but instead here is an irrelevant picture of me and Mother in anoraks.

Saturday, 31 December 2011


Everyone had taken their places and it was time to begin; I took the first photo. I knew we had a limited amount of time to get it right, and impinging on His time would inevitably be deemed disrespectful. Never unnecessarily annoy the subject; I had learnt that the hard way. The room had been all hustle and bustle but, now that we had officially begun, the noise and commotion of my colleagues had suddenly gone. Refocusing the lens and rearranging a disciple or two, I took another photo. And another. Shooting the dinner took a comparatively short time and, having dismissed my crew and cleared up the equipment, I bade goodbye to the men in front of me.

Outside in the cool night air, my co-workers shuffled off into the darkness as I called my editor. Barely a second passed before Evonne answered.
"Lucian! I've been waiting to hear from you all evening. How did it go? Did you manage to get what we discussed? Have we got exclusivity..?"
"Calm it Evonne, I'm in control here. Firstly, it went well, thank you for your concern. Secondly, yes we got all that we needed. Finally, I managed to get exclusivity but mainly because no other bugger seems to have picked up this story."
"That" she declared triumphantly "is because I am a fucking genius. Meet me in twenty minutes at the usual place." and promptly hung up.

After twenty-five minutes, I was waiting for Evonne to arrive. Ten minutes later, she careered into sight across the horizon, a whirlwind of cigarette smoke and coffee fumes.
"Darling" she called across the hillside "you're an absolute saviour." Collapsing beside me she asked "Does anyone know you're here? If Hanna knows, her team her going to have a field day. I bet they think I'm insane."
"No-one knows. Still." I replied, thoughts racing, taking a drag on her cigarette.
"I was pretty sceptical about it at first, I must admit." she said, as though she wasn't really listening to me. "But if you got what we agreed to, there's a story in it. That trouble at the temple the other day was such a good lead. Hanna should have been in on it. She's too busy with global affairs now to realise that some of the locals think the Messiah is on their sodding doorstep."
"It's going to get bigger; huge, if tonight was anything to go by." I took a deep breath. "I'm going to lay my offer out, and you can take it or leave it but we haven't got much time. All I ask is that you remember that your job is on the line here. All the big stories since you became editor in chief have been absolute flops, and working with you could be professional suicide for me." She stopped examining the bottom of her conglomerate coffee shop latte and started scrutinising my face.
"I know exactly what you're going to say, but I'm listening." she said reluctantly.
"After tonight's shoot and before coming here, I waited outside for a while and had a listen to what was actually going on at this dinner." She raised an eyebrow, but I continued. "He'd been so bloody secretive during the shoot; I'm surprised we managed to convince Him to even agree to it in the first place. Anyway, to cut a long story short, He predicted that one of His followers is going to betray Him. You remember that He requested delayed publication, that he didn't want the photos to come out til next week?"
 "Yes.." she replied, hesitantly.
 "That," now it was my turn to be triumphant "is because He knows that He'll be dead by then." Evonne's eyes widened and the remainder of her coffee disappeared down the hill. I was well aware of her stance on investigative journalism, that she deemed it uncivil and unprofessional. But I also knew that she was in the shit, that her job was hanging in the balance, and that she needed a ground-breaking story to keep her head above water. This was different. He wouldn't give us what we were after, but I knew I could get it anyway. She had finally relinquished; she'd been led into temptation.

Leaving Evonne on the hillside, I made my way to the garden. Judy and the Elders arrived shortly after, and I got my photo. Kiss, click. The next twenty four hours were the most intensive hours I had ever spent on the job; the trials lasted through the night and into the early morning. I suppose I shouldn't complain, but the hill was steeper than I'd imagined, and carrying all my equipment up there after a sleepless night was no mean feat. 

By four o'clock, I was in Evonne's office. Her initial enthusiasm, which had been even more colourful than her usual monologues, had died abruptly. Her coffee was left to go cold, her cigarette had burnt itself out. After flicking through all of the photos, she sighed and leant back in her chair.
"Some of these photos are absolutely beautiful, Lucian." she said slowly, her eyes staying focused on the screen. "Really, quite astonishing. And sad. Very sad."
"Can you make a story out of it, that's the question?" I said, attempting to make eye contact. After quite a long pause, she looked at me and said "This is not a story. This is The Story."

The task for this piece was to start with a photograph. My dad came up with the idea of writing a story involving photographs that had never been - of a famous event that had occurred before photography. Not everyone gets what this is about, and I'd be interested to see who does; let me know if you do! Have a good new year ladies and gents.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


“Good morning.”
Custard and toast.
“Good morning Mr Stevens.”
Custard, toast and a Marathon bar.  

Kevin sighed. Another morning, another feast. Today was Monday, so everything had a whiff of elastic bands anyway. Nodding greetings to his colleagues, Kevin backed into his office and shut the door. Silence. Unfortunately Janet was lingering on his tongue, and Peter was resting pungently in his nostrils. Not forgetting the elastic bands, of course. Adding the scent of his early morning coffee and Danish into the mix, which sat innocently on his desk, the cacophony of smells and tastes was enough to nauseate anybody. As it happens, Kevin wasn’t just anybody.  

For as long as he could remember, words had been accompanied by tastes. It didn’t matter whether he was speaking, listening, reading, thinking or even dreaming; almost every word sparked a flavour. Kevin hadn’t considered it an abnormality until one day, age seven, when he was forced to partner up in a science class. Sharon, a perfectly friendly classmate, had approached him and asked if they could work together. “I don’t want to work with you,” Kevin had blurted, “you taste like lard!”  

For quite a long time after that unfortunate incident, Kevin left his abnormality unmentioned. The other school children had quizzed him no end, and had finally decided that he was either mad or an attention seeker. Neither of these qualities went down particularly well in the playground, and over the years Kevin gradually felt himself becoming more and more isolated from his peers. As he grew up, he became acutely aware of the difficulties that arose due to his gift. Classes were difficult, and some voices even became incomprehensible past their flavours. He spent many hours tuned out, staring out the window and trying not to listen. In time, he developed ways of filtering out some of the tastes and smells around him. Drinking strong coffee, he had discovered one morning in his early teens, overpowered some of the weaker flavours, leaving him more able to concentrate on what was being said in class, rather than on what it tasted like.  

Sitting at his office desk with his coffee and Danish, Kevin took a minute or so to let the Arabica beans wash over him. With a familiar sense of inevitability, he turned on his computer and checked his email. Gorgonzola had responded to one of his questions, Soggy Crisps needed some advice and, unfortunately, Vomit from human resources needed some additional information from him. Kevin had attempted to make his initial email to Vomit as concise as possible, as no matter what words he used or how quickly he typed, Vomit managed to overpower all of the other flavours coming through. Vomit was most unpleasant. Vomit also happened to be just about the prettiest colleague in the company, perhaps in the entire sherbety office complex that Kevin worked in. All of his male, and a surprising number of his female co-workers swooned whenever Vomit floated in. All apart from Kevin. Just as no-body liked Richard from technical support because he genuinely smelt like Stilton, Kevin couldn’t help but dislike Charlotte, simply because she was Vomit.  

But then, there was Vanilla.  

Vanilla had joined the company relatively recently, and everyone liked to talk about how easy she was to get on with. She was around Kevin’s age, and although nature had not been as conventionally kind to her as it had been to Vomit, there was something in her generous frame that made Kevin’s belly perform acrobatics. Of course, he was a little swayed by a biased sweet tooth, but Kevin knew that under her palatable exterior, she was just as nice inside. Kevin took every opportunity he could to speak to Vanilla. She was, granted, not the most exciting flavour he had ever tasted; she was just nice.  

It was on this elastic band morning that Kevin found the opportunity to call Vanilla into his office, on some pretext or another.
“Good morning Kevin!” 
Vanilla flavoured, slightly elastic, custard, toast and plastic car interiors.
“Good morning Mary.”  

Mary had always felt a little flattered that Kevin paid her so much attention. He tended to keep himself to himself, and seemed to strongly object to speaking to certain people, apparently for no good reason at all. Most peculiarly, he avoided Charlotte at all costs. Mary suspected it was due to his shyness, and that he simply felt more comfortable around her homely self than the gorgeous Charlotte. But still, there was a small part of her that couldn’t help but wish that Kevin actually preferred her.  

At 5pm, just like every other day, Kevin’s colleagues watched as he left the office. Nodding goodbye to his co-workers and swiftly avoiding the piercing gaze of Vomit, Kevin left the building. His employees had always found it peculiar that so seemingly friendly a man barely spoke to anyone. Kevin had made the decision early on in his career to avoid telling anyone about his gift; it had only actually been in the last decade that Kevin had been able to put a name to it. After years of frustration, he hit ‘I taste words’ into Google. ‘Lexical – Gustatory Synaesthesia’ Google had replied, in 0.23 seconds. The revelation had been somewhat of a relief; he wasn’t mad after all.  

Arriving home, Kevin threw off his glasses, tie, jacket and shirt and tied his apron on like a cape around his neck. Pulling the apron round and fastening it behind his back, he felt anxious with anticipation. Kevin had happened upon many peculiar yet winning recipes by chance, in fact it happened every day. One of his most successful had been a toffee and lime cake, the combination for which he’d come across in a conversation with a Toffee client, whilst talking on a limey Wednesday. Chocolate and bacon had been a nice surprise too, although Guiness and liver had been a bit of a disappointment.  

He whipped up a storm in the kitchen that evening, and after a long day of Gorgonzola, Toast, Custard and Vomit, he sat down to a fat slice of vanilla cake. There were some flavours he just couldn’t get enough of.

The task for this piece was to write a story involving the senses or colours. I remembered a Horizon programme that I'd seen about synaesthesia, which is actually called 'Derek Tastes Like Earwax' and I would recommend watching it if you can find it. Everything I used in the story was based on fact and I spent a couple of days in my bedroom eating biscuits and researching it. Absolutely fascinating. Anyway! I think that during this I ran away a little with what I knew about synaesthesia and was telling a lot of backstory, rather than concentrating on telling the Day-In-The-Life-Of, which is what I had planned on doing. The ending is pretty rushed - I was going for a Clark Kent/Superman effect with the penultimate paragraph that I don't think anyone got! Oops. Anyway, let me know what you think and where you would like it to be improved.

From James Wannerton's website, Welcome to the World of Synaesthesia. This extract in particular was very inspiring and totally blew my mind. James is on the committee of the UK Synaesthesia Association and is the man who thinks Derek tastes like earwax. Check out his site, it is overwhelmingly fascinating.

Sunday, 25 December 2011


Lenny had been away for a long time. Where, and for how long, was not something he liked to think about, let alone discuss. Suffice to say that, turning the familiar corner that led onto the last stretch of the walk home, he was very glad to be back.

Lenny’s walk home had been the same for many years. His parents had bought the house before Theodor, the eldest, was born, and had stayed there ever since. By the time the youngest had arrived, four children later, the house had truly become a home.


Life is hard. Some people are fortunate, and only to have to cope with the inevitable difficulties life brings; sickness, heartbreak, loss. Unfortunately, some people are born into difficult situations, and life can be a struggle. Pregnant and desperate, Carolin turned to her aunt, who had been living in London for many years. In late 1935, Carolin Amsel and Dieter Günzberg were among the few lucky Germans to escape the clutches of the Third Reich, and they set up home somewhere just north of Leeds. Anti-Semitic behaviour had grown exponentially in Germany over the past year or so, and Dieter had no longer been able to find work. After months of desperate job hunting and grim determination, the introduction of the Nuremberg laws, which officially declared Jews ethnically inferior, also stated that Jews could no longer marry non-Jews. Dieter was Jewish, Carolin was not. It was the final affront; the couple had been defeated.

As enthusiastic as they were about their new life in Jolly Old England, they were determined to hold onto their German heritage. At the birth of their first child, shortly after their fairly spontaneous marriage, they made a decision to give their children German names and to teach them German as their first language. Theodor came first, in the spring of 1936. Happy and healthy, life was looking up for the Günzbergs. Many British Northerners had never met a German, and Dieter spent many hours with his fellow carpenters teaching them German vocabulary (predominantly blasphemous, although he never admitted this to Carolin). Jan came next in the autumn of 1938. By his first birthday, Britain was at war with Germany, and tension had started to rise in the Günzberg household. Although none of their British friends had been intentionally unkind, both Carolin and Dieter had noticed a distinct change in their behaviour towards them. Carolin was not overwhelmed with the same number of passing guests as she had been before, and conversation between her and the neighbours had become noticeably reserved. Painfully for Dieter, who had bonded so closely with his colleagues, he often walked in on silent rooms that had previously been filled with chatter. Once again, the couple felt like outcasts.

The outbreak of war hit Dieter particularly hard. Correspondence with his family in Germany had ended abruptly. He suddenly felt like a traitor; abandoning his loved ones when life had gotten too difficult, leaving them to fight their corner alone. So when the opportunity arose for the family to host a Jewish child from Vienna, Dieter jumped at the chance. In September 1939, Lennart arrived on the doorstep of the Günzbergs, much to Carolin’s initial surprise. Lennart Maybaum was a tall, dirty, and endearingly shy boy of twelve.  He brought nothing with him but the clothes on his back, and a pair of broken shoes that, Dieter finally discovered, had belonged to his father. It soon became apparent that Lennart had no intention of discussing what had happened before, what inevitable horrors had occurred to qualify him for the last Kindertransport train. Carolin and Dieter asked no questions.

Lennart spoke absolutely no English, and was incredibly reluctant to leave the safety of the German speaking home from home. The Günzbergs suddenly found themselves experiencing considerably more British culture, in an attempt to ease Lennart out of his shell. Everything became an adventure, from grocery shopping to buying railway tickets. More than anything, Carolin wanted Lennart to have as normal a childhood as possible from then on. In early October 1939, after tense discussions between the Günzbergs and the headmaster of a local school, it was decided that Lennart would attend school as of January. Carolin and Dieter redoubled their efforts to integrate Lennart into English society. By the time Lennart was ready to start school, the whole family felt much more like they belonged, and a lot less like outsiders. School came with its own difficulties, but Lennart took them in his stride. In time, ‘Lanky Lenny the Hun’ became ‘Lanky Lenny’, and finally just ‘Lenny’. He made good friends with children on their street, and they all walked home together from school, playing football and swapping jokes. In July 1940, Rafael became the newest addition to the Günzberg family. It was at this point that Dieter had suggested to Carolin that perhaps four children were enough. She informed him, in her brusque manner, that they would not be stopping until they had a girl. Fortunately for Dieter, her wish came true in December 1941, and Annaliese became the last member of their happy clan.

The war raged on, and as much as the family supported the Allied war effort, triumphant news stories of ravaged German towns were difficult to hear. Dieter had tried to dissuade Lenny from listening to the news, as much for Lenny’s benefit as for his. He just did not want to know. One evening in late 1943, after Lenny had been left to babysit for the others, Carolin and Dieter returned home to find him sitting with his ear pressed to the softly crackling wireless. It was obvious he had been crying.
“I have to know. You have to know.”
Carolin sat at his feet, Dieter at his right arm, and Lenny finally told them how he had ended up on a train from Vienna to London, with nothing to his name but broken shoes.


Lenny gradually made his way home, kicking fallen leaves from the gutter and marvelling at the splendour of English autumn. Seven autumns had come and gone, and yet he never tired of the scorching reds and burning oranges that swirled at his feet. Life had not always been easy for Lenny, but now that he was finally home again, he knew that he was where he belonged.

This is from my fiction writing module. The task was to include a character called Lenny, a pair of broken shoes, and a walk home. I like the ideas, but I think it's written far too much like a history A-level essay (I LOVED writing those), or a story summary. There's another section including Lenny's back story, but I kept it out of the final cut. Drop a comment below to let me know what you think! Cheers. And I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

This is what Lenny looks like in my head, but without glasses.

Saturday, 24 December 2011


So here I am again, another blog that I'm begging you to read. I promise that there will be no peculiar fashion advice here, no short anecdotes manipulated into long winded stories and no tales of stupidity. If that's what you're looking for, head over to Love from Life. Or even find me here on Twitter.

This blog is simply here to showcase work I do for university, and hopefully get some feedback on what people think. That's it. Constructive criticism is more than welcome, I'm very happy for you to tear it apart where you think it's necessary. There's obviously a back log of what I've done so far, so forgive me an initial torrent of posts. I'd just like to know if you think the stories are interesting.

Any input from you will be gratefully received, and I thank you in advance.

Emily Jane Writes, apparently.