Libraries And Learning

I feel I need to write a little more here. It seems it should be a natural progression that while my Priptona Weird blog is on its downwards trajectory that the University & Unicorns blog should be on the ascent – at least in terms of the frequency of my posts and interactions with said blogs, right?

I’ve certainly been more focused on the aspect of my creative writing and uni study than I have with music and more to the point, Simple Minds music.

A sign of things to come (a street traversed heading to the university library. It was missing an R though…)

Certain other struggles abound. I find my mood fluctuating wildly at present. Mostly I feel incredibly insular and I rarely seek the company of others. I have always been pretty comfortable in my own company which makes it very weird that I should find myself permanently craving the attention of one person in particular and I don’t seem to be able to shut this desire off. That I just don’t have enough self-esteem or self-belief to banish that desire and get away from it. I get eternally angry with myself for not being able to let this desire go because I KNOW how unhealthy it is and I know that this person really couldn’t give a flying fig about me….and yet. And yet.

I just needed to air that thing here.

I haven’t been writing any fictional prose over the past 10 days. I’ve entered two writing comps and want to enter a few more before my new uni module starts. I had intentions of writing for much longer entries for a couple of writing comps – ones with entries that required a minimum of 2000 words written but I haven’t started on any of them. I’m not going to pressure myself. The fact that I have actually entered comps is good and I definitely will be entering a few more before uni starts back up. 

As well as making sure I am continuing to write I am making sure that I am reading as well. 

Last Monday (14 August), I took myself to Possilpark library (my most local branch of Glasgow libraries to my home) with an application form that I had picked up a few days before from the Hillhead branch that I had since filled out – and got myself a library card – AT LAST. Because Covid had struck barely three months after we moved to Glasgow (and also bearing in mind I was in Sydney for a month around Christmas of 2019), we hadn’t had the chance to get signed up to the library when the first lockdown happened. We did get temporary access to the library’s online resources but then the branches were closed for extended periods of time, etc, etc. When restrictions finally lifted and life went slowly back to normal, I was in the middle of study and had other things going on and I just didn’t find the time to get membership to Glasgow libraries sorted. Until now.

It feels very surreal to have this. Hate my photo. My head is shaped like a bell(end), but hey ho. Lol. I never wanted to win a beauty prize.

So now, not only am I FINALLY a cardholder of Glasgow libraries and have an ASTONISHING 32 branches across Glasgow at my choosing to visit (with Possilpark, Springburn, Milton, Woodside, Maryhill, the GoMA, The Mitchell and Hillhead branches all within my most immediate proximity for visitation and use) – over the past week I applied to have access to the University of Glasgow library under the UK universities SCONUL scheme. SCONUL access allows students from one particular university to gain access to the libraries of other universities around the country. So, I as an Open University student applied for SCONUL access. With that access granted, I was then able to apply to the University of Glasgow for access to their library – all TWELVE FLOORS of it. I was granted a card, which I collected from the library yesterday. I then spent a few hours investigating the library space. Checking out the various floors, the books on offer, the study spaces and…the views of Glasgow therein. OMG – the views from the upper levels of the library! There is almost a 360* view of the Glasgow skyline from there. And a lot of the study spaces face the window, so…you have that amazing panorama spread out in front of you. Okay, you might have your head buried in books for the most part while you’re studying – but when you need to take a breather, there is Glasgow right out there in front of you.

I began my exploration on Level 9. That’s where the English and English bibliography books were. I had no sense of scale from the floor plan of the library. It seemed as if it was going to not be a very big space with not that many books but OH MY WORD! There are THOUSANDS of books in there. I mean, the majority of books on the shelves are from authors and writers considered to be “in the canon”, with several copies of books of their work. Some of them are very, very old! I used up a good hour just on this floor, scouring the rows and rows of books.

Just one aisle of books from Level 6

From there I went down to Level 6 – this is where the Russian and East European books were meant to be but I got lost trying to find where they were, despite looking at the floor plan. I just could not find where they were. I decided to try again another time. Or to wait until I can book a guided tour of the library (they do guided tours twice a day at 11am and 2.15pm). 

Next I went up to Level 12 as there is a viewing platform up there and I wanted to look at the views of Glasgow. When I got up there though, it seemed as if access was via appointment only which seemed odd  – but I think it was the archival section of the library that was only accessible by appointment only and the viewing platform was accessible around the other side – I just didn’t know how to get there. Bugger! I’ll try again another time. 

Down to Level 3 next and to the “high demand” area and group study areas – as well as the cafe. The cafe had just closed, so my plan to get myself a coffee and take a breather was scuppered. The “high demand” section is CRAZY! These books are deemed to be in such … high demand … that you can only loan them for 24 hours and some of them for as little as FOUR HOURS! Can you imagine? Being able to borrow a book for only 4 hours?!

Lastly, I decided I’d check out Level 4 – which I thought rather strangely, for a university, has junior fiction and non-fiction sections as well as the music section. Well, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked down one of the music book shelves and there were archival folders stuffed with copies of Sounds magazine dating back from 1981! I nearly died of excitement stumbling upon this pot of gold! I turn the corner to walk down the next row of shelves and there’s only bloody NME and Melody Maker mags archived as well! Neither of them date quite as far back as the Sounds archive but still. I was stunned! I even found a little bit in one of them that seemed very appropriate and timely. Little did I think I’d be stumbling across Jim at the University of Glasgow library…in a manner of speaking.

Did I borrow a book? No. I was a little too intimidated by it all yesterday. Overall it was quite the jaw-dropping experience and I will DEFINITELY be frequenting the uni’s library as often as I can.

Before heading to the UofG’s library, I popped into Hillhead library. I had a book to return that I had borrowed from the Possilpark branch that I had just finished reading. I know! I read the book in just TWO sessions! I KNOW! It was only 160 pages long – but yes! Hark at me and my “speedy reading”. Lol

I promised myself I wouldn’t borrow too many books – even though you can borrow up to 12 books at any time with Glasgow libraries, we all know I don’t read that fast! I couldn’t help myself though and came away with 4 books. Two books by Jean Rhys. I enjoyed Wide Sargasso Sea so much that when I saw two of her novels on the shelf, I had to borrow them. The other two I was taken with their titles initially – for very differing reasons. But then they both reeled me in with their synopses. The photo below shows the titles. How could I walk past a title like The Pheasant Plucker – I mean, come on! Lol

So now I have much reading to do!

I am a pheasant plucker…

Everything’s Gonna Be All Write

The Illawarra – a vision sense of my story’s location for The Gudmut.

My apologies for the length of this. Strap yourselves in – but it’s Sunday afternoon (when I posted this it was anyway), so I hope that means you have some time to read it…(I have two short stories attached to this post, hence it looks so lengthy!)

I’ve been grappling as to whether enough time has elapsed to be able to share this or not. I really don’t want to jeopardise anything when it comes to my university studies, so I am being very mindful of what I share in relation to it. So, this is one aspect of doing creative writing that I am conscious of. The other is the catch 22 situation that is arising from me wanting to build upon my experience of the creative process by entering work into writing competitions but then conversely not being able to share anything that I am writing because most work that goes into competitions needs to be previously unpublished work – that also means never published on any social media sites or on blogs.

So, while I am writing things that I feel really good about and want to share, unless I have no intention of entering it into a short story or flash fiction comp, I can’t share it here! 

What I can share with you now are my very first fictional creative writing efforts for my university degree. I won’t be talking about marks in relation to them – only to say I was happy with the mark that both of these pieces of writing scored – I’m hoping that keeps it vague enough? 

I’m not wanting to share them in any kind of boastful way at all – I hope they’re good. They were wonderful things to produce. I enjoyed writing both of these pieces. The Gudmut required some research which I absolutely LOVED undertaking. I get a real buzz out of researching things. 

I came into wanting to study my DipHE in English by working through the creative writing aspect of the course simply through wanting to improve the way I use writing as a tool of communication. I wanted to be able to express myself better, with better use of language and syntax. To feel like I am really understanding what I am doing with language and how best to use it. All of this was in relation to writing non-fiction and factual writing. I honestly didn’t think fictional writing was something that interested me or that I could or would be any good at – at all! This most recent module of study has really smashed down the wall of my ideas on that and has revealed to me how wrong my assumption was that “every story has been told” and “I have nothing new or different to add to the plethora of fictional writing that exists in the world”. 

Not every story has been told. Although, yes, it is true that there are only seven basic plots in storytelling – like there are only 12 notes in music – the scope, shape and dynamics in which these things can be manipulated (in storytelling it can be through the three act story arc or the 12 act ‘heroic journey’ – whilst in music it’s in relation to chord arrangements, tempo, timbre, etc, etc) and drawn out can provide an endless array in which the same basic story can be told again and again in many, many varying ways. This has been the most valuable insight I’ve been exposed to during my uni studies so far. The realisation that, like with any other creative discipline in life – fictional writing, creative writing CAN be learned and developed. That one is simply not just “born with it”. One can have some element of a natural aptitude towards it, but with tenacity and focus it can be learned, honed, refined and perhaps even eventually mastered. 

And holy fork I wish I had known this 30 years ago!!! I have to believe that at 52, it really isn’t too late and that, like with most other times in my life, I’m just “fashionably late” in arriving at the party. Lol.

I had convinced myself that you needed some kind of “gift”. That all inspiration and skill just … delivered itself to those gifted enough to channel it out of them. That is, of course, utter bloody hogwash! All it requires is drive, focus and tenacity. 

During the pandemic, I lost my way in enjoying writing. I felt like I had too much to say and I was finding it easier to do vlogs. Sometimes I still desire putting things across in a vlog. I am feeling like that again at the moment but not in the way I was during the height of the pandemic. Then I just struggled to write. It was most likely down to the circumstance of the pandemic itself and the fact that I was very badly grieving the loss of my mum which I didn’t realise I was doing at the time. I accepted that I was probably going through a point of grief but at the point of it I felt like it was other things happening in my life that was causing this… “writer’s block”, if you will. The reality of it is, with the beauty of hindsight, I was grieving deeply for my mum. On top of that, I was perimenopausal. Not a great combo, it has to be said! 

The past 18 months of being a university student have been incredible. I really have found a new lease of life with this and I am ssssoooo excited to continue my journey. I am really looking forward to the next phase, moving up a gear to Level 2 study and honing in on the creative writing side of my studies when the academic year recommences in October. 

My apologies for the long blurb. In the future I hope to share some more of my creative writing with you. For now, and without any further ado, may I present to you my first two “professional” pieces of fictional prose writing.

The first was submitted without a title (yes, that’s how green I was at submitting pieces of fictional prose writing!) but if I was to give it a title now? I think I would call it (because I love alliterative things)…

P.S. Getting it to render the titles in headers and italics was a mare. Can’t work out how to centre align the titles, either, let alone the text within the stories that needed to be centred as well, so I hope they read okay and all of it makes sense.

Vinnie Vitae

Vinnie races out the front door and runs to press the down button for the lift. Jeanie is anxious of his enthusiasm but is thankful for it none the less. Where did the time go? Five years has passed by in no time at all! Before she knows it, he’ll be starting his first job, she tells herself.

She locks the front door of the flat just as the lift pings and the doors open. Vinnie jumps over the threshold of the lift as if he’s jumping over the world’s widest and muddiest puddle. Jeanie fumbles at placing the keys in the inside pocket of her handbag. She makes it into the lift just as the doors begin to slide shut. As the lift descends, Vinnie runs circles around her. Averting her eyes from Vinnie, she stares blankly ahead in an effort to ward off the rising nausea.

Nine floors down and ‘ping,’ the doors slide open. Waiting at the lift doors is Vinnie’s best friend Mark and his mother Sally.
“Mornin.’ How’ya feelin’?” Jeanie asks Sally.
“Alright. A little nervous for Mark. Excited for him too. How are you?”
“Okay, I think. Nervous too, more for me than Vinnie. He cannae wait to start school and I am thinking, ‘What am I gonna do without ma wee boy?’ Sad, in’t it?”
“Naw! I get it. Especially ‘cause he’s your only one. I’d be the same if Mark was my only boy,” Sally rubs Jeanie’s arm.
“Do you want to go and get a coffee somewhere after this?”
“Aye. That’d be great.”

It feels surprisingly warm, which seems odd to say in August, but not when you’re in Glasgow! The pleasant weather only helps to fuel the enthusiasm the boys have for getting to school. It’s only a short walk from the block of flats to the school gates. They cross the park from the flats and reach the road where the school is located. Kids and their mums are converging along the pathways of the park, all heading to the school. Exuding a mix of emotions and corresponding facial expressions. Some, a mix of enthusiastic child and furrow-browed mother. Occasionally the reverse. A number of them both appear happy. These are usually the mothers with more than one child accompanying them. They are the happiest mums. Then there are the sad pairs, with both mother and child looking as if they are about to be parted forever. As if they have been told it will not only be their first day apart but their final day together.

Jeanie, Sally, and the boys arrive at the school gates. A school administrator is standing by the gates with a clipboard in her hands, marking off each new arrival.
“Good morning. Are you excited for your first day?” she asks Vinnie.
“Yes! I am!”
“That’s great. And the name?” shifting her eyes to Jeanie.
“Devlin. Vincent. Vinnie Devlin.”
The administrator places a line across a point on the page.
“Okay. Vinnie, you’re in classroom K3, which is over on the left side of the main block. Head through the main entrance doors and you’ll see the directions for the corridor when you get there. Enjoy your first day, Vinnie.”
Too embarrassed now to reply with words, Vinnie flashes back a bashful but broad grin.

They wait for Mark and Sally by the main entrance. “So, which class is Mark in?”
“Do you think it’s better or worse that they won’t be in the same class?”
“Cannae tell. I guess they can’t distract each other, and they’ll get to play at break times.”
“What time is it now?” Sally checks her watch.
“Eight fifty-five. How long do you think we’ll be? Twenty minutes? Meet you back here at, say, nine-twenty?”
“Okay. See you later, Mark. And be good!” Jeanie says with a wry smile, pointing a playful finger at him.
“That’s you telt!” says Sally, stifling a laugh.

The boys wave each other goodbye and part at the entrance hall. Jeanie leads Vinnie down the left-hand corridor and stops as they get to the door marked K3. Standing in the corridor, Jeanie bends down in front of Vinnie to be at eye level with him. She softly brushes back the sandy-coloured hair from his face, adjusts and straightens his pale-yellow school shirt, tidies up the tuck in his shorts, inches up his socks and tightens his laces. She then places her hands lightly on his shoulders, looking into his wide-open ocean blue eyes.
“Now, you do everything your teacher tells you to, okay? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be polite. Remember to say please and thank you. And don’t forget, Mammy loves you! Okay, are you ready?”
“Yes, Mammy.”
“Come on then. Let’s go in.”

Jeanie waits for Sally back at the main entrance. A few seconds later she appears from the opposite corridor.
“How did it go?”
“Okay. Vinnie’s teacher seems really nice, and he already seems to like her so that’s a good start. How did Mark get on?”
“Great, aye. I’ve got a good feeling from his teacher. Ready for that coffee?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
Right now, Jeanie was unsure how she would keep a coffee down. She was hopeful that by the time they arrived at the cafe her stomach will have settled. The only thing Jeanie was sure of was that the day was going to be a long one.

The Gudmut

The morning air is cool and light and the rocks leading down to the riverbank are slippery with dew. Down by the water’s edge, away from the more jagged rocks, three tribeswomen wade into the water. Led by the one called Merindah, the women check the traps early each morning. It’s the height of the yabby season – Murrai’yunggori. The flying foxes are returning to the coast from their inland winter camps. The summer camps of fruit bats swell in numbers and the waratahs begin to bud. At this time of year, the yabby traps are full to overflowing. The tribe refer to it as ‘badoburra’ – a flood or deluge. This morning the yabbies are ‘badoburra’o’ (flooding) in abundance.

Richard Morgan has split from his companion officer, Tom Wilkins, and is surveying a section of the Shoalhaven River alone. Both he and Wilkins, along with other officers dispersed elsewhere, have been sent from the settlement at Botany Bay in search of Peter Burgess. Pickpocket Pete. He was sentenced to five years hard labour and transported to New South Wales for offences his nickname implies. Burgess fled the settlement and is believed to have headed south. He escaped three weeks ago.

From a surreptitious vantage point upon a promontory and obscured from view by dense scrub, Morgan observes the women wading around the river’s edge. He’s never eaten a yabby. He has heard that the locals eat them often during the breeding season. Does this suggest they taste good? The notion sets him salivating. He wouldn’t think they’d be eating things that weren’t tasty, but they eat those big caterpillars, so perhaps it’s a case of needs must.

Morgan fixes his gaze upon Merindah. There is something about her he finds intriguing. A certain expression etched on her face. A squinch that looks as if she’s trying to catch a thought, or perhaps it is just the glare of the sun upon the water’s surface? They’ve been lucky today. There must be at least forty yabbies in those traps. They certainly eat better than we do, he muses. How long have these people survived like this? He’s only been here three months and is already tired of the meagre pickings. As a member of the New South Wales Corps, he knows he’s lucky. The convicts are starving. The crops keep failing. He can’t blame them for wanting to escape the settlement.

He continues watching the women as they weave their way from the riverbank. Are they heading back to camp, he ponders? He decides to make his way down from the promontory to intercept them. When reaching them, he uses a few local words he has learnt.

“Wedaeo. Wurar. Gubba. Wiribanga. Wugarndi. Nandiri?” Hello. Sorry, apologies. White man. Lawbreaker. Runaway. See?
He places a hand on his forehead, shielding his eyes and mimes looking around. He then looks back at the women for recognition that his words have been understood.
Merindah looks around to her companions, Keira and Lilardia. They look back at her bemused. She looks back to Morgan, staring at him with a squinting-eye scrutiny.
“Illa. Bunamara’wa’mi. Dyirrun’wa’mi. Gudmut. Yaluwaninmin!” No. You offend me. I mistrust you. Red bull ant. Get away!

The women brush their way past him and head onwards to the camp. He can only make out the words ‘illa’ – no, and ‘gudmut’ – a word they use for the officers. What else she said to him is unknown. By her expression and tone of voice, he assumes her words were dismissive.

Morgan waits a moment, then turns to appear as if he’s heading off in the opposite direction and darts behind some shrubbery nearby. Once at a safer distance he begins following the women. As they approach the camping ground, he takes refuge behind the trunk of a tall blue gum. He knows of cases where other escaped convicts have been aided by local tribes. Could Burgess be hiding here amongst this clan? The chances are slim, but worth investigating.

At the campsite, Keira and Lilardia have prepared the yabbies. Four huts surround a clearing at the centre of the camp with a firepit. To the side of the main firepit is a smaller coal fire. Two men stoke the fires, shuffling tempered pieces of coal between them. Once satisfied with the fires they retreat to their huts, reappearing shortly after with an array of weapons.
Merindah enters one of the huts. Her husband Jemmy and Burgess are inside. She addresses Burgess.
“Gudmut. Nandiri’o’mi.” Red bull ant is looking for you.
“You said what? Minyin?” He knows that the word minyin means ‘answer me’ or ‘why’, depending on its tone.
“Tamuna’dya birad’o dali’nga.” Did not speak to him. She speaks to him in pidgin. “No talk to him. Said go away.”
“Bega.” Good.
“Allawah naway. Ngalawa dudba’dya.” Stay here now. Remain sheltered. She translates her words. “Stay in hut. Hide.”

From his spot behind the blue gum, Morgan observes the workings of the camp. Apprehensive to approach until he spots Merindah. He cannot see where she is right now. Perhaps in one of the huts? As he ponders her whereabouts, she exits a hut along with Jemmy. Continuing his observations, his mind wanders. Mystically, this place is a haven to them. Look how they flourish. They never appear in need of anything. They eat well. They may look scrubby, but they’re well fed. They never seem sad, and he’s never seen them argue or act violent towards one another. They make music and dance. The other officers think they’re barbarians. He doesn’t see it. He thinks they are as civilised as the settlers.

Suddenly he feels hindered by his military jacket. This red mark of the gudmut. This weighty attire is far too impractical for the weather conditions here. It may have been cool when he arrived but now the days are already sweltering, and it’s only spring. He is tempted to remove his jacket but resists doing so.

He waits until the tribesmen leave the camp to go hunting then starts to approach. The women are working around the centre clearing, tidying away the remains of the morning feast of yabbies. As Morgan approaches, the women stop what they are doing. He addresses Merindah.
“Illa. Nandiri. Gubba. Wugarndi. Naway?” No. See. Whiteman. Runaway. Now?
“Illa. Walanga’dya’nya’mi. Minyin?” No. You followed us. Why?
Sensing he struggles to understand her words, she speaks to him in pidgin. “Chased us. Why?”
“Nandiri. Dudba. Wugarndi.” See. Hide. Runaway.
“Wurar wunan. Illa gubba galumban’nula worriwarra. Tamuna’o’mi.” Sorry silly man. No white man in the camp just now. Excluding you.

From behind him, Burgess emerges from the hut. Creeping slowly towards Morgan, he carefully loosens the strap of the musket on the officer’s shoulder by gently nudging the musket’s butt end. As the strap falls, Burgess grabs a firm hold of the musket. Alerted to the movement from a change in Merindah’s facial expression, Morgan swings round to find Burgess standing in front of him, the protruding bayonet pointed at his chest.
“I heard you were looking for me. Well, here I am. Now what?”
“How did you manage it?” replies Morgan, unflinching.
“Manage what?”
“Being here with them. How did you get them to trust you?”
“Easy. I’m not a gudmut. They could see that. They wanted to help me, look after me and feed me. But now the question is – what are you going to do? Well, I guess the question is more … How fast can you run? You see the thing is, I don’t really want to kill you. I don’t want to be pointing this weapon at you, but can I trust you enough to let you go? This place is a hellhole without living the way these natives do. I mean, just look at that garb you’re wearing. It’s not even fit for this place. It marks you out. Do you know why they call you a gudmut? You run around with no direction like a little red bull ant. A tiny, weeny insect with a tiny bite that doesn’t hurt anyone. Just an inconvenience. A pest. No one’s scared.
So, run, gudmut. You’ve seen nothing here. Go back to Botany Bay. You never saw me. If you run and come back with more men, it’ll end badly. Mark my words. It’s really very simple. Go now, keep your mouth shut and live. Come back to arrest me and die. Your choice.”

Walking through the scrub, Wilkins heads towards the campsite. He pauses as he spots the clearing in front of him. Taking up a spot behind the same blue gum that kept Morgan out of sight, he observes the camp. First, he spies Morgan. He then sees the three native women standing behind him. His eyes darting quickly to the left, he spots Burgess with the musket pointed at Morgan. He tries to map his way there, quickly configuring a route into the camp and ensuring he approaches Burgess from behind.

Moving forward from the safe coverage of the blue gum, he creeps closer to the camp in short stops, using as much dense scrub as possible to remain hidden from view. The huts are just a few yards in front of him. He needs to tread very lightly from this point. If those native women see or hear him coming, he’ll be toast.

As he inches closer to the camp clearing, he edges along the side of one of the huts seeking to remain hidden from view. He carries his musket ready to fire. When he reaches the front of the hut, Merindah sees him. Burgess gleans a change in her facial expression as she calls out ‘GUDMUT’! He swings round and before Wilkins has time to fire his musket, Burgess fires at him. The impact forces Wilkins to squeeze his trigger. Morgan falls to the ground, shot in the abdomen. Wilkins bleeds copiously. A wound to the chest. The bullet lodged in his heart. Death is imminent.

Merindah is transfixed looking at the rivulets of blood mingling with the dry earth of the camp clearing. A colony of red bull ants are drawn from their nest to inspect the sweet trails of liquid. Gudmuts feeding on a gudmut. Conscious of his shallow breathing, she waits for Wilkins to intake another breath. He doesn’t.

Immobilised by the scene in front of him, Burgess is drawn out of his frozen state by Morgan’s painful cries. He cannot let Morgan live now. They can’t look after him! He looks to Merindah. She’s fixed upon Morgan, concern furrowing her brow. She wants to help him and alleviate his pain. She looks to Burgess.
“Banyadjaminga’ba’wa’nga.” I will help him. “Me help him!”
“Illa! Bugra.” No! Kill. “I kill him. Stay back.”
“Illagara’wa’mi. Murin’wa. Banyadjaminga’ba’wa’nga. Buyi’o’nga.” I refuse to obey you. I will not listen. I will help him. He is dying. “No! Me help him!”
“Then what? Minyin. You free him? Minyin!”
“Nay. Midiwinyi’ba’nya. Karbo madingara’nya’nga. Namuru’ba’mi’nya. Yanma’ba’nya moon wawu. Wingara’dya’mi mandingara’ba’nga.” Yes. We will abscond. After we free him. You will accompany us. We can go anywhere. You considered releasing him.
Her emotions fuel her long reply in her native tongue. She speaks in pidgin. “Yes. Let him go. We run by river. Leave huts.”
Merindah points to Wilkins.
“Gudmut yinya gugun.” Red bull ant there dead.
She looks back at Morgan.
“Illa narang naway. Buyi’o’nga. Manwari’o’wa’nga.” No different now. He is dying. I am saving him.

Merindah moves towards Morgan, but Burgess steps in front of her. Holding the musket downwards, he stands over Morgan and thrusts the bayonet into him several times until his wailing ceases.
Burgess looks at Merindah’s pained face.
“I’m sorry. I had to. We need to leave.”
“Nay.” Yes.

When the tribesmen return from the hunt, they see the blood on the ground. Where is the body? Burgess, Merindah, Keira and Lilardia had carried the bodies into one of the huts.

Daybreak. As Merindah awakens she tastes the metallic bitterness of the blood heated by the morning sun. Soon everyone is out of their huts and ready to leave. Men, women and children of the tribe. Also, the gubba (white man). They head to the river, further away from where the bodies had been disposed. They’ll walk a long way before they feel safe enough to settle anew. The river is long. There is no talking, just walking.

The Russians

A good friend suggested that I read the Russians (reading is as much a part of the process of writing as anything else). Although I’ve read Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, I’ve not read anything else by any other Russian author. The idea of reading Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, et al scares me. I’ve been recommended to read Nabokov, which I will do – as he might just be a little more accessible than the other two. If for no other reason than length and volume of dialogue. I’d like to read other Bulgakov works too at some point.

Myself and the OH went to Milngavie yesterday and we ended up perusing an Oxfam shop there. It had a decent book section. I have come to the idea of trying to pick up at least one book from a charity shop each time I am near one and so yesterday I was determined to leave Milngavie’s Oxfam shop with one book in my hands.

Well, blow me down. I found this! I’ve never heard of this author, but their name is obviously Russian. I checked out the details of the book and was taken with it being a collection of short stories. That appealed to me. The price also appealed as most other books I looked at with some initial interest to purchase were selling for £2.99. Mr Turgenev’s offering was a more appealingly priced £1.99. So, Mr Turgenev came back with me from Milngavie. I’m looking forward to diving into its pages.

An Update On The Uni Downtime

I have to say that I’ve taken a real dive in mood recently. The only thing that has given me any real positivity of late has been my A112 module results for uni.

I have entered my first piece of creative writing prose into a competition but despite what the rules/guideline for entry states, I’ve had no acknowledgement of my entry so I am just slightly concerned that my email has gone into their spam folder and will never be seen. Yay!

I have another piece I’ve been working on for entry into a short story comp the writer’s magazine I’m subscribed to runs. I still need to iron it out. The deadline for that is on the 15th.

Yesterday I started on another one to enter into the Oxford Flash Fiction prize, but I am worried that what I have written for it is waaaaaaay too dark. I don’t want to say any more about it or give any detail on the story as it has to be unpublished work that is entered. 

So, yes, despite my low mood I have tried to keep myself focused on my writing and getting some stories developed, etc. It’s hard not to write darkly when you’re down. 

I guess the Simple Minds tour news hasn’t helped the situation but I am not admitting that to anyone else but myself (and whoever reads this – definitely not my OH or certain close friends read any of my blog stuff…and that’s okay. It lends a certain freedom to what I feel I can say here, if I need to air things) and I am trying not to dwell on it because there is no changing the situation. 

I was meant to go to a gig on Tuesday night but I felt so low and so dark I just couldn’t motivate myself to go out. Actually, I was in a state of panic thinking about going so I decided it was best not to as I was just trying to fight a nervousness that wouldn’t calm down – until I made the decision not to go. I then spent the rest of the night really down on myself for not having the strength to pull myself out of such an awful state of panic. 

So I am just trying to keep creative. I try to write every day, even if it isn’t much, or it’s for the blog (the other blog) or some other non-fiction writing rather than fictional prose or short story writing for competitions. Anything that means I am typing away and getting words down on a page, or on the screen. 

I’ve just gone over the halfway point of my uni break. I don’t feel like I’ve been as productive as I would have liked but I am at least writing and…I’ve entered a comp! Even if I’m worried that my entry has gone nowhere and I’ve had no confirmation that it was received. 

I’ll try my best to keep the old stiff upper lip – pull the old socks up and just…get on with things. 

Adios amigos.

Uni Results

I can’t go into too much detail, just … in accordance with Open University study rules, I need to be careful not to divulge too much. I can’t reveal exact results but what I will say is I have been marked higher than I had hoped for or expected and I am very, VERY happy with my results.

It has reassured me that I am on the right path and that Creative Writing is definitely the subject I want to progress through.

After a crappy and disappointing past 48 hours, I feel upbeat and grateful.

By way of celebrating, I’m going to place a photo of this beautiful adonis here to gawk over to my heart’s content.

Photo courtesy of Horst Waschinski.

And In My Downtime…(Downtime? What downtime?)

I’ve been meaning to catch up with you, but by gawd, I’ve been busy! Jeez-o. I feel like I’ve hardly stopped since uni officially ended on 18 May. 

I went to Pollok Park and the Burrell Collection with my partner the following day (Friday, 19 May). Knackered myself by walking nearly 20,000 steps and just over 13.5km that day. I spent the weekend recovering from that. Then on Monday 22 May, I did a massive spring clean of my bedroom, which took me most of the day – stripping my bed, vacuuming the floor and walls, making the bed back up with fresh bed linen, etc, etc. Knackered myself again. 

On Tuesday (Tuesday week) in the evening I went to the Mitchell Library to attend a creative writing workshop that was being run in partnership with the University of Strathclyde and conducted by one of their CW lecturers. It was titled ‘What You Need to Know about Point of View’. I thought it would be beneficial to me in the hope it would provide me with clear definitions of how point-of-view within a narrative works. It was really good and I am SO glad I went. Even more so for the fact that I didn’t pre-book as I was unsure whether to go or not or whether I should go to one of the other CW workshops that was happening later in the week. I read in the Aye Write brochure that you could buy a ticket from the Mitchell Library on the day, so I decided to just turn up and buy a ticket then. What will be, will be kind of thing. Long story short, they couldn’t work out how to issue me with a ticket without a lot of faffing about, so they decided that because they hadn’t made the process very straight forward at all, to let me attend the workshop for free. Yes! Part of my ‘should I, shouldn’t I?’ dithering was about whether I could afford to go or not, so I was quite pleased to end up being allowed to attend for free. And it was really very good and cleared up some things about point-of-view that just weren’t sticking in my brain.

On Wednesday, a voluntary work colleague of my partner’s gave us tickets to see him perform as an extra in the Theatre Royal production of An Inspector Calls. It was a great show and we really enjoyed ourselves. 

Thursday I did some writing and caught up with laundry. Friday it was the Sparks gig at the Armadillo. Sunday I caught up with a friend that was on holiday in Scotland from the U.S. We met up at the Barras market and wandered around there for a while. Visited the Blitzkrieg Shop, Glickman’s and then had lunch at Mono before perusing Missing Records. It was a full day and I had walked another 10km. 

Monday, I went to see The Lemon Twigs at SWG3. Then yesterday I went and got my haircut. So, today feels like PROPERLY the first day I’ve had to just take a chill pill and rest up a bit – and do a post here. 

Even just going over what I’ve been doing for the past (almost) two weeks is exhausting me! Lol. Lots of sight-seeing, writing, theatre, gigs – LOADS of walking and some dancing too. It has felt absolutely non-stop. I’m giving myself a quiet one today though. 

The weather has been AMAZING! So warm and dry. Yesterday it was 25 degrees in Glasgow! It’s not quite as warm and sunny today but it’s still into the 20s and ahm still roastin’! 

I’ll probably get out and go for a wander tomorrow, just so the old bones and legs don’t clam up on me completely. I don’t have anything pre-planned until Hamish Hawk on 9 June (then Ian Moss the next night) but I want to keep active and make sure I do some things and make good use of the fabulous weather. But today I definitely need to allow myself to just chill and relax. 

This has been the main reason for the radio silence since the break-up of uni is just…I’ve been as busy since the end of uni as I am during it! I mean, it’s great. I’m glad I have so much to do. I’m looking into being able to do some other things while on summer break. I’ve been looking into taking a trip on the Waverley ‘doon the watter’ sometime in the summer. One trip takes you all the way out for a circuit around Ailsa Craig which would be AMAZING! I’d love to do that! I’ve spoken to my partner about it, but the decision is hers. We’ll see. It won’t be until August but we’ll need to book early to secure a place.

We’ll have another night away in Newcastle in around five weeks time so that’ll be fun. Other than the odd gig here and there, my calendar is now pretty free. I’ll still keep creating and writing during the summer, that’s for sure. 

Anything of worth that I write, I’ll share here. I just wanted to check-in for now and show off my new locks. I tried a new salon yesterday. They’re just five minutes away around the corner but I had been scared to try them until now. The lady who cut my hair did a grand job and I’ve already booked to have a trim in the second week of July.

One thing I’d like to do within the next week is go to the Kelvingrove and see the Mary Quant exhibition. Possibly over the weekend. If not then early next week. We’ll see…

P.S. You can read gig reviews at the Priptona Weird blog.

Yes, I am in my JimJams. Lol

It’s A Wrap!

My second module of study for my Diploma of Higher Education in English is complete. I handed in my final assignment for this academic year this morning and I am now on a break from study until October.

What I do from now, I have no concrete ideas on but I do know that I will continue to write and make plenty of time for myself to remain focused and creative during these months away from study.

This blog is the perfect place for me to share some of my writing endeavours, so expect the content to pick up here over the next few months while I have the downtime to pursue my own writing efforts. I look forward to sharing some of my writing efforts with you.

But for the next week or so, I will be socialising, gigging and enjoying a bit of downtime.

Four Weeks To Go

It’s been a while. 

How’s it all going? Well, I had an attack of the doubts over the past few days. Before that I had been procrastinating. I had been a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing and was staying away from writing for uni. I submitted TMA05 on April 4th and got my mark on April 7th. I have to be very careful about what I discuss, having gone over the OU’s rules on discussing things about assignments online. 

Suffice it to say it was a pass and I was happy with the result. 

I took an early Easter break and had planned to get back to study from Tuesday, 11 April but…that didn’t really happen. I went through a period of demotivation and took all of that week (which was officially Spring Break anyway) off. I was doubting my ability to be “commander of my own ship” in terms of independent study. I feel a little out on a limb when it comes to that. I feel I have a good sense of what my strengths are with my writing but I’m finding it hard to know what to do about my weaknesses. I grapple with really understanding the concepts and techniques around narrative voice and point of view. I know that I also need to get better at creating settings. Creating dialogue for me is VERY strong. I can have characters waffle on all day long – but then to explain where they are and what surrounds them? That’s the hard part. And the other hard part for me is the voice itself. Are they giving a monologue? Is it internal? Is it a soliloquy? Is it solely from their perspective or is it coming from them being observed by someone else? And is that narrator part of the story or not?

I know all this will come with time and through experience but I want it now! Lol. 

In my dilemma, I completely wrote off the story I had been working on (and a lot “off”) for the past 4 weeks. I started to believe it was just too big! There was too much going on with it and there was no way I was going to contain it within 2000 words! So, yesterday I started something else. I began a completely fresh story based on this little niggling idea I had about a story that I wanted to explore stemming from the lyrics of a Simple Minds song – Special View.  It flowed and I have around 1500 words of a story in no time at all. I spent a small amount of time researching – but it was nothing compared to the research I’ve done so far for the first story. So, it flowed and all that’s left is to end it. I don’t know what that ending will be, yet. If indeed I keep it as a back up and extend it to 2000 words. 

At the moment I think the story based on Special View might be something I work on in conjunction with the assignment story just as a kind of distraction for when/if I get stuck. Assignment story now feels fully back on track. I did a lot of work with it today. I didn’t add that much writing to it. Maybe only about 500 words today. I guess it just didn’t feel like much because it all flowed so much better today. But considering it was sitting at around 900 words when I came back to the story on Monday, then…that’s pretty bloody good! Assignment story now sits at 1500 words also. I just need to write the end for it. But I have the ending formulated, I just need to write it out. 

It’s coming along nicely. There are exactly 4 weeks left until submission date (18 May) and after a few days of feeling not so good about it, today I feel much better.

Write Like A Writer?

Two more assignments to go before year’s out.

Do I want to be a writer? Do I really feel as though I can BE a writer? Will I ever feel comfortable with the idea of calling myself a writer? 

I feel so much uncertainty with where I should go with my studies. Today I have been looking at the next module. We’ll move on to Stage 2 with the next module and that’s when the more focused point of study begins. I love writing! I enjoy it so much. I find it so rewarding. Before starting this module I had done very little fictional writing. I strongly felt it was not something that I would be very good at. I accepted my weaknesses and felt my strength lay in life-writing – that is, autobiographical and biographical writing. These past several weeks have opened up a new world to me. One that I felt was out-of-bounds for me. I convinced myself I would never be good enough to become proficient at fictional writing (I avoided using the term “to master” because I doubt I will ever “master” it). I’m still not sure I will ever do so. 

I keep trying to silence the inner voices. At the very least I am trying to talk back to them and tell them they’re wrong. Those inner voices that keep saying to me, “you can’t.”

The biggest stumbling block I had was never knowing how to start writing a piece of fiction. I was daunted by the blank page. Since learning how to break the blank page curse, I find that lots of ideas come to my mind. I have even found myself dreaming of stories. I know they are dreams of stories because I’m not even in the dream. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced dreams that I have never actually been a part of. If I have then I never really thought about it in this way and never thought of it in terms that I am dreaming a story and I should do something about it or with it. 

A few nights ago I dreamed about a female protagonist called Jessie Orange. Yes… she had a name! Completely from nowhere because I don’t know ANYONE called Jessie Orange. Jessie is Northern Irish and she dislikes her surname because of the connotations it has. She’s an activist and a protestor – but she protests for peace and a united Ireland – but she’s not Catholic, she’s Protestant. 

I woke up with such vivid visions and ideas for Jessie and I immediately wanted to go to work and do something with her story. But…I haven’t. Other than now giving the synopsis of Jessie’s story, I’ve not written a single thing about her or her story. I think Jessie was an amalgam of watching the play Cyprus Avenue at the Tron Theatre a couple of weeks back and then seeing Elaine Malcolmson at McChuills on Sunday afternoon. Exposure to Northern Irish people and themes fuelled my imagination.

I’m still very ratty when it comes to capturing those kinds of ideas and doing something proactive with them. My enthusiasm is building into having several writing projects on the go at one time. This idea scares the bejaysus out of me at the same time.

I am loving the research that I am doing writing the prose for my EMA (End of Module Assessment). I’m worried that I am enjoying the research itself more than developing the story from what I’m learning through my research. I don’t really want to discuss what I am researching in case discussing it would be deemed too revealing about my piece of prose. The piece is history-based but entirely fictional. For the assessment we HAVE to write a fictional work. I am conscious of it needing to have verisimilitude – an authenticity to it. It needs to be believable and tangible. The other aspect I am worried about is that my piece will run away with me. The prose can be no longer than 2000 words and I’m worried that I have set myself a story that will be very hard to contain or work effectively within the constraints of 2000 words. There’s a part of me that wants to be selfish and start something fresh so this piece can be given the wings to soar and allow me to expand it and have the potential to make it something of a more considerable length.

My days alternate between feeling brimmed with enthusiasm and creativity to feeling as if I am going down the wrong path entirely and that it really is just academia in general that gives me a kick. It’s learning more broadly that inspires me and perhaps I shouldn’t tie myself down to a specialist subject?

How “well read” writers need to be makes me apprehensive too. I enjoy reading. Of course I do! But I’m not a book worm. I’m not as avid a reader as I should be. I do wonder whether I should stick to English Literature to begin with and then move on to CW? I also love etymology and linguistics – the concept of words, how they came to be, how we use them, their lineage, etc. I can study this as well. But then I look at the Creative Writing module at Stage 2 and there are things I am keen to learn about (like life-writing) but I can see we’ll also be looking at poetry in greater detail and that puts the fear of god in me. Writing poetry I like, reading poetry is what I find scary. I know! I love song lyrics. It’s ridiculous of me to say that I’m scared of reading poetry. It’s the complex stuff that scares me. Clever syntax and blank verse, etc. Pam Ayers? Great! William Blake? HELP!

I’m just in a very pondering mood today and wanted to jot some things down. 

I love the story I am working on for my EMA. I’m a little concerned I don’t have an exact end for it, yet. It’s very early days and the EMA isn’t due until 18 May. Before that there is another TMA to hand in which is due on 6 April – just over a week away. It’s worth the lowest overall percentage of the module mark and is just 800 words. It’s a reflective task and study plan mapping out how we are working on our EMA. I’m trying not to get too hung up on that. I’ve made a tentative start and will start pulling it into focus over the weekend and into early next week.

Lastly, my grammar worries me greatly. I am very conscious of my weak points and I am being particularly mindful of my sentences at the moment. I think about every single word I write and worry whether I am using all my words in the right context. I am 52 years old and I still feel like a 14 year old girl. I still get a basic sentence wrong all the time. I keep trying to understand and work out where I am going wrong and rectify it but a lot of the time it feels like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. That’s the final voice in my head. The one that keeps refuting all the examples of “you’re never too old.” That voice keeps saying “Yes you are! You’re far too old already. Why are you even bothering?” Trying to suppress that voice is REALLY hard!

Sharing Is Caring (Progress?)

I keep working on writing. I’m at pains to even begin to describe myself as “a writer”…

Harry sits on the park bench. He’s early. Biding time, he enjoys looking at the symmetry of the line of trees that spread out either side of the park’s main pathway. A light breeze lifts the dying leaves off the branches of the trees. They add to the growing carpet of autumn colours laid out across the path. It’s midday and deeply grey. The sky is almost as dark as the asphalt of the pathway.

Harry grows frustrated as his attention diverts to the expressions upon the faces of the people walking through the park. It’s a gripe of his autism that he finds particularly infuriating. Reading peoples’ faces doesn’t come easy to him. In fact, he’s not sure it ever comes to him at all. He can tell the difference between a smile and a frown well enough. He has some talent in distinguishing between happy and sad but it’s hard to put those two opposing expressions into greater context. People crying tears of joy, for example. The idea that anyone cries when they are happy perplexes Harry. He cries when he’s angry or hurt, not when he’s happy!

Furrow-browed, he looks at his watch, then looks again at the pathway in front of him and sees Gary approaching. Gary smiles when he sees Harry waiting on the bench and waves enthusiastically. Taking a seat beside him he enquires, “What’s got into you today? You look like you’ve swallowed a wasp. What’s up?”

“I was watching people walk by and got pissed off that I can’t work out what anyone’s thinking. You know, the usual autistic crap I have to deal with. How do you do it, Gary? How do you know how people are feeling and what they’re really thinking”?

“I don’t, mate. I’ve got no idea. I’m just guessing. Here! See him, over there,” pointing to a young man just to their left on the park’s lawn, “He’s thinking about bunking off work ‘cause he can’t be bothered to go in today. He can’t be arsed.”

“I guess that’s it, yeah. See, I wouldn’t think of that.”

“It’s okay, Harry. I’m just guessing, mate. It can be anything on that bloke’s mind. He could be really buzzing inside. I don’t know. And you don’t need to worry about what others are thinking and feeling, either. You just need to worry about yourself, alright? Anyway, ya ready?”


“Come on then.”

Both men stand up and begin walking towards the pathway.