Friday, 5 July 2013


Today's post also comes from a writing prompt on Morgen Bailey's Writing Blog, which I only discovered this week. I'm very glad I did as there are loads of tips, prompts and exercises to get your writing flowing. I really enjoyed writing Dirty Old Ashtray from another of Morgen's prompts so thought I'd go back there today to find another one.

Today's exercise is a sentence starter: The bus trundled for over an hour...

...through the clogged up streets of Ljubljana then once it hit the open road the driver put his foot down. Right down. Karen clung onto the seat in front of her as the bus hurtled round a sharp bend then grabbed hold of Dougie's arm to stop herself from falling off the seat.

'Let's swap sides,' he said, 'you come in here by the window. Looks like we're in for a bumpy ride.'

As Karen went to slip her flip-flops back on the bus suddenly came to a screeching halt and they went flying along the floor to the other end of the bus.

'He's a maniac!' Dougie said but his eyes were shiny and she could see he was quite excited by it really.

As Karen went to collect her flip-flops she passed a little old lady, who was surrounded by bags of vegetables, doing that thing that Catholics do - the cross thing - and muttering to herself. Shit, things must be bad if the locals have started praying.

'At least we'll get back in time for dinner now.' Karen said when she sat back down next to Dougie.

He smirked. 'If we get there at all.'

After an hour of being flung around as the bus shot through the windy roads as if it was a rally car, it finally stopped in the main square of Piran. Karen's legs shook as she walked down the steps. Thank God that was over. It had seemed quite funny when it started but at a couple of points she really had wondered if it was the end for them, especially when they'd been flying along the coast road with just a sheer drop to the sea to the side of them. Even Dougie had looked a bit pale. She looked over at him as he stepped on to the pavement beside her.

'Bloody hell,' he said, 'that was mental!'

Relief flooded through Karen and with it came a bubble of laughter. They'd made it. They hadn't died. She grabbed Dougie's arm then they were both laughing hysterically.

Time's up! Another fun 15 minutes of writing. And just like with the other piece I wrote from Morgen's prompt, I'm wondering what's going to happen next so it looks like I'm creating lots of new stories with legs in this challenge.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Marvellous Mazzie

Today's writing prompt comes from the Writing Things map from Writing Maps: write about a car you've owned or driven in often. As soon as I saw this exercise I just knew I had to write about Mazzie.

Me having breakfast after a night sleeping in Mazzie
Both my husband, John, and I were late starters when it came to driving. I didn't pass my driving test until I was 34 and it took me seven attempts, but that's a whole other story. John passed when he was 29, just a few months before we went to live in New Zealand. Mazzie was the first car we owned and we bought her as soon as we arrived in Nelson, the first place we lived in NZ. She was gold, she didn't like hills and it was impossible to tell how much petrol she had as the gage went up and down erratically depending on the roads you were driving on. But we loved her. We folded her seats down and camped in the back of her in an endless array of stunning and deserted places, and once in the middle of a town, Fox Glacier, on New Years Eve.

Mazzie was so much more than just a car. She was our trusty companion on our road trip adventures (see my blog about finally getting the road trip bug), she never broke down, she never needed any major repair work, and she gave us the freedom to go wherever we wanted whenever we wanted. Her boot was a permanent home to our trangia stove, cooking pots, fold away chairs and sleeping mats; and on summer weekends we'd sling our pillows and quilt from our bed in there too and just go. From January 2003 until September 2004, Mazzie, John and I visited most of the South Island. We had moved to Christchurch after a year living in Nelson and then, after nine months of braving the winds coming up from the Antarctic, we packed up Mazzie with all our belongings and got the ferry to the North Island. We then drove right up the middle of it to Auckland, which had seemed so sleepy when we'd first landed there from England almost two years before, but now seemed like a buzzing metropolis after the emptiness of the South Island.

The plan was to spend a while in Auckland and get our permanent residency, but like all good plans things came along to change them. Homesickness came along and it wouldn't go away. So after just a few months in Auckland we had to say goodbye to Mazzie, as we were flying home to England. But we've never forgotten her. I even remember her registration number: PE 306.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Dirty Old Ashtray

Today's blog comes from a prompt on Morgen Bailey's Writing Blog. Write for 15 minutes and use these words: innocent, much, smoky, neighbours, food. 

'Innocent until proven guilty! That's what our justice system is supposed to mean!'

Craig rubbed his ear and glared at the man that had just bellowed in it. The man glared back, waved his placard at Craig and shouted again, directly in his face this time. It really was too much. Not only did he have to run the gauntlet of protesters most days when he came to work, once he got inside he had Smoky Sue to contend with. Luckily she couldn't smoke in the building anymore but she still stank like a dirty old ashtray. And her breath when she bossed him about in her gravelly voice was deathly. He didn't get paid enough for this.

The door to the courthouse swung shut behind him and dulled the shouts of the protesters. Craig fished his security pass out of his bag and then sauntered down the corridor, nodding hellos and good mornings to the cleaners he passed. He liked to get in early and get stuck in before Sue arrived with all her demands. But as he approached the door to his office he could hear someone moving about in there. He pasted a smile in place - best to get the day off to a good start.

'Morning, Sue, how...' Craig's voice trailed off as instead of his fag-loving boss there was a man in the office. A man who was moving all the junk off the desk next to Craig's and putting it all in a box. A man that looked like he might be moving into the office with them. What the hell's going on?

The man put the bundle of old papers he had in his arms back on the desk and held his hand out to Craig.

'Hello there. I'm Mike.'

Craig shook hands with him. 'Craig, hi. Are you moving in?'

Mike nodded. 'I am indeed,' he gestured at the cluttered desk he was clearing, 'we're going to be desk neighbours.'

'Oh right. No-one mentioned it.'

'Yes, well it's all a bit last minute. Apparently the desk I was supposed to have has been commandeered by someone else. So here I am.' 

Mike smiled and Craig supposed it could be good to have him there. His conversation couldn't be any more boring than Sue's, could it?

'Ah, I see. Well, welcome. Has anyone shown you around yet?'

'No, I just got dumped here with this box and left to it.'

Craig put his bag down on his desk then rubbed his hands together. 'Well, first things first. Food. Let me show you where the canteen is and we can get some breakfast and a coffee.'

That's it my 15 minutes are up. That was fun and I'm really getting into this writing from prompts every day. I may well carry on once the blog challenge is over! As always, would love to hear what you think. If you'd also like to write to the same challenge post up a link to your blog so we can read it too. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A trip to the supermarket

Today's writing exercise comes from The Creative Writing Handbook from my Open University course: write about a trip to the supermarket. So here's what I came up with...

Once she’d finally managed to park after several tours of the car park, Ellie cursed the millions of people who chose to live in London, always making everything so difficult. Then the reality hit her of what it would be like inside. Not a carefree float down spacious aisles perusing delicious delights at her leisure. Oh no, it would be heaving on a Friday evening. People crashing into her trolley, pushing past her without even acknowledging that she exists, and then the endless queues in endless traffic jams on the way home. This is why she gets the shopping delivered. This is also why she should move out of London. This is why it is very annoying that Nan has turned up out of the blue for an ‘at least a couple of nights’ stay.
The slam of the car door was so loud that lots of shoppers glanced over quickly before looking away again even faster. Ellie stomped towards the door then grabbed a big trolley and, for the first time in several months, walked into the big Waitrose. Her shoulders inched higher with every step as the glow of the strip lighting welcomed her in. But then she realised that it wasn’t so bad. Not as busy as you’d expect considering the car park fiasco. As the perfectly formed fresh fruit and veg appeared before her, Ellie’s shoulders retreated, just slightly, back the way they had just came. She wouldn’t let it get to her; she would make the most of this. Convenient as online shopping is, to feel and smell things then choose the fresh food herself, was a rare treat. Ignoring the Friday frenzy going on around her, Ellie headed straight to the fish counter. No point starting with the veg as what she needed to get there would be dictated by what it needed to go with. But as she approached Ellie could see the big queue and an already depleted fish counter. Deep breaths. This is a treat.
She went back to the pre-packed fish instead. Not brilliant but then Nan wouldn’t appreciate it anyway. Even if it’s been cooked perfectly and seasoned like fish has never been seasoned before, Nan will just shovel it in then say it was OK, a bit dry. She thinks I should have taken on board everything she taught me about cooking when I was growing up: boil it all until all flavour has departed; then got myself a husband, a mortgage and a couple of kids, instead of these fancy pants ideas above my station I’ve ended up with. Ellie shook her head; she couldn’t believe she was letting it happen so quickly. So what if Nan doesn’t like the way she lives her life. She stopped caring whether she did or not a long time ago. Still, she’d get really nice ingredients and wine to go along with the cod to make up for it being from a packet. Bruce will appreciate the food after all and she needs to make it up to him.

Grabbing a packet of raw king prawns and a salmon steak, Ellie decided that a fish pie was in order. Tasty, comforting and needs a fairly lengthy time in the kitchen. Nan will be happy in front of the TV for a couple of hours and Bruce and I can drink some delicious wine while we cook . By the time we have to sit down and endure the meal accompanied by a healthy dose of Nan’s always happy and uplifting news we’ll be floating on a calm sea of white that even she won’t be able to stir.

' Can I get to that shelf?'

Ellie’s hackles rose at the man’s tone but she just moved off without even looking. No point. Even if she said sorry it wouldn’t make any difference. She’d annoyed him by lingering around thinking for too long. She did it to people all the time. She didn’t move fast enough for London, even after all these years. Funny that she could work so quickly when she needed to, thrived on it really, but then so slow the rest of the time. Head in the clouds is what Grandad had always said, then ruffled her hair and smiled at her in a way that told her that was the best way to be.

Do let me know what you think of it! Or if you have any prompts for me to write to tomorrow.

Monday, 1 July 2013

The Ultimate Blog Challenge

Seeing as I didn't make it through to the end of the A-Z Challenge in April, I've decided to go for the Ultimate Blog Challenge this month. This means posting a blog every day. Rather than making a big plan and having a theme, which is out of the question anyway as I only signed up today, I'm just going to respond to writing prompts and exercises, or write about things that have caught my attention recently.

Not only is this an easy way to make sure I post every day, it's a great way of making sure I write something new everyday. And it would be great if some of you readers that are also writers posted some of your responses to the prompts too. No pressure though!

So today I'm starting off with a prompt based on 'Transferring the Ordinary' that came from Cathie Hartigan's Friday Writing Group, which I go to every fortnight. It was to take the view from my window and write about it in different ways.

Daylight - The sun chases its shadow across the field. The new leaves on the trees gleam brightly for a moment then its the river's turn to sparkle as the rays catch the water tumbling over the rocks on the way to the sea.

Dusk - The colours are fading now. The clumps of moor grass are turning into menacing little creatures. They're getting ready to pounce.

Night - Once you get a few feet from the fire the blackness is absolute. On the wall of the stone barn strange faces appear in the cracks and crevices as the flames flicker and the light seeks out new places to shine.

Snow - The blue tinge to the light tells me what I will see before I open the blind. When I do the world is white. The trees in the wood have been transformed into skeletons, the snow clinging to their branches turning them into fresh new bones.

Under water -  As the tears fill my eyes the woods on the other side of the river disappear in a shimmer, kind of like the heat waves we used to get back in the days when had hot summers.

Kaleidoscope - A square of tree-trunk-brown crashes against a shard of meadow-grass-green. Triangles of blue that have fallen from the sky scatter across it all.

What interested me about this is that although the view from my window is tranquil and beautiful, a couple of these responses have a slightly dark and sinister edge to them. Something I'm discovering quite often comes through in my writing.

Anyone else want to share the view from their window with us?