A Year of Writing: Days 171-180

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Day 171 of #ayearofwriting and ideas come like buses, I note them down and marvel at the fact that when you are about to go to sleep something sparks in your mind. I have learnt over the years that it will not wait until tomorrow, a note book, a pen, a note on your phone will stop you worrying it to death the next morning when you wake with the memory of something that may have been good but you simply cannot recall.

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Day 172 of #ayearofwriting and I am dealing with the idea of abandonment which follows on from my last story. The image of a village where no help comes has haunted me, the idea of people praying by the forest edge, afraid to go in, waiting for something to come out from it and save them. In the story I am working on now I have turned the idea on its head, what if those abandoned become the last of their kind? Become oracles of the past?

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Day 173 of #ayearofwriting and my story is called the Knight of the Thimble. For those who are scratching their heads wondering what this is, many moons ago I sat on a bus next to an old man. He was very pleasant and very old. He was interested in where I came from and then promptly told me that he had a party trick, he could tell me what size of suit I would take. He then looked me up and down, and told me what size I was. At the time I did think this was a little weird until he told me to go into any clothes shop and get measured. I did, he was right. A month later on the same bus he got on, sat beside me and called me by my measurements. He said he never forgot a shape. He told me that he was a Knight of the Thimble, a tailor, and he spoke about how he’d been apprenticed to it when he was just a boy. He spoke about the hierarchy and the structure of the shop, about being locked out and docked pay when he came back to the shop late one night. How his skills during the war had meant he’d ended up in army fitting, and ended up being the man all the top brass wanted to make their uniforms. He spoke about the death of his beloved cloth, he said that, the death of his industry and how there were few like him who could read material just by a touch. After that encounter, for I only ever saw him once more, I was fascinated by the old tailor shops that you’d find in Wakefield by the station and in the Northern Quarter in Manchester. I bought my first suit from a small shop, it cost me around £40 and it was the best suit I ever had. So, because of this, because of that hierarchy and the idea of reading cloth, my story is for him.

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Day 174 of #ayearofwriting and back to the Knight of the Thimble, and my character tells us about the young that found them and how they had their own creation story; all within the space of forty years. That their rules sound like the kind of care work you find in care homes. I draw on my own experience of working in care homes in the NE and the kind of things that the kids produced and the adults enforced. It always seemed an odd dichotomy that kids set the rules and the adults enforced them, including in one home that everyone ate pizza on a Friday. This rule was so old that the original pizza place they ordered from had been crossed out many, many times, replaced by new pizza places because the original one had gone out of business. It is as if Moses came down the mountainside and passed all the commandments to a group of small children, who promptly scrawled all over them, and sure enough in my story we have ten rules. Instead of revealing the world to the remaining adults, they used the rules to keep them safe, and that means keeping them in the dark about what is going on in the wider world.

 

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Day 175 of #ayearofwriting and in any post-apocalyptic fiction you have to set out your stall and say, ‘Yes, I am going to tell you how they survived until we meet them’ or ‘Get stuffed, that’s not really what the story is about’. You see it is so easy to slide into a narrative where the elderly have a garden or grow on their rooftops or a myriad of shit like that. Except, that’s not the story, this is not a survivor’s guide to the end of the world. This story is more about how we create gods and find their voices in the world. The Romans did it, the Greeks did it, we’ve done it, we build temples to our gods, and we think that these places are gateways to them, that reality is somehow thinner in these locations, sacrosanct. A week ago I visited a church in a forest, deconsecrated, in among the trees, open to nature and there was real peace there but that peace had always been there, that nature is a god. I find it odd, that the most tangible way of us touching something that is bigger, greater and older than all of us put together is not revered. We like our gods, like us, to look like us, to be like us, to do what we do, beyond building the universe in seven days but nature is more than that, we are part of it and to accept nature is to accept that we will return to it. If we accepted that, it would be acknowledging that we have been fly tipping in heaven. We still sell the line that we are killing the planet, we are not, we are killing ourselves, after we are gone, nature will keep on rolling in some shape or form, and that is a real kick in the teeth for us because that isn’t a benevolent god, that is god as s/he has always been, a detached god. If you believe in all this, god in Christian faith did you one favour and that was a one way street of a favour, he gave you free will, which is a big sign saying, ‘Fuck off, you make your own bed’. I am not a Christian, I am an athiest, I was raised a Christian and I know that nature acts in exactly the same way. Fuck with it and it will wipe you out, it will not die, it will keep on rolling, no matter what you do because it evolves. It is detached from us but we are firmly attached to it.

 

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Day 176 of #ayearofwriting and I am smiling, laughing at what I just wrote because it appeals to my dark sense of humour that after the end of times, hand language we use may be reinterpreted, reused and recycled by those that survive. It is the British condition that even after the end of the world, they will still take the piss and that it will come to bite them back. So, in a section I have just written about warding off evil the narrator apologises for drawing the sign for it. You can guess what it is but you can guess the chaos it brings, especially when those that are supposed to be keeping care of them in their old age bring back one of their recent dead, as a bag of bones to predict the future with as the narrator goes off on one saying that he doesn’t wanted be rendered down and turned into a Yankee Candle.

 

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Day 177 and my Saul story has gone out into the world to find a home. Back at the keyboard and the Knight of the Thimble is at a crossroads, their friend died and his bones have been returned but the young ones who think they are oracles want them to bring back their friends. Like some Ray Harryhausen special effect and they have a choice, run or die.

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Day 178 of #ayearofwriting and this story’s structure dropped into place very quickly, I recall the car park near a leisure centre when I was a kid. I was told never to play in there, that it was full of drug addicts and people who would cut you for your money. It was the wolf in the forest. It is an image that has stuck with me but when I consider the oracles in my story, the lies they have told, the belief that has grown up around them and then the fear when they are tested, and run away, I begin to realise that they are the wolf and their flock are wolves too. That Gods created are just smoke and mirrors, just a way to put the beast or angels in chains. All hail, Oz.

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Day 179 of #ayearofwriting and I find humanity’s approach to climate change all about the cult of the narcissist. In the sense that time after time we talk about how we are killing the planet because we don’t want to face simple facts, in the end it was climate change that did away with the dinosaurs, the planet cooled and for all the Jurassic World wizardry you want to applaud, the good chance is if you brought back a T-Rex it would die of a cold. Our world is changing, and like a fox ridding itself of fleas, we will drown and the planet will carry on, leaving echoes of us in its landscape.

Today, also saw the death of one of my favourite writers, Harlan Ellison.

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Day 180! Of #ayearifwriting. Today I want to look at what I have achieved and four short stories in I realise that this exercise was not as productive as#100daysofwriting. The simple fact is that I have been sitting down to write now for 280 days and I am experiencing quality over quantity. Though Bradbury said of his story a week period that sooner or later a story would stick. Mine have yet to stick. Which may depress some people but not today. The exercise is to write and to grow as a writer. Sometimes submission replies take longer than the writing of the story.

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