love

Composition & lessons in flash-fiction

“Plot is the last resort of a good writer.” Stephen King

I’m fairly new to writing flash-fiction. I only came across this method of writing a made up piece to a prompt this time around in my intermittent blogging endeavours.

Before that, it was all more or less true stuff I published. Before that, the last time I made up a story was for my “Ordinary Level” English Language examination – the trick there was to make up at least three stories in advance, trusting that one could be bent into the shape asked for on the exam paper. It was called “composition” in my schooldays – what is known as today, I wonder? I can’t say I enjoyed it; probably because, like all school work, I saw it as a chore or an imposition. And I don’t think I received much praise or encouragement when I tried (okay, there was one teacher who wrote at the bottom of one composition, in red, how much she enjoyed it. Unfortunately, she was only my teacher for one year).

Now I can’t think what was in my mind when I had a go at blogging a piece of flash-fiction a couple of years ago. But I enjoyed it a lot. Having read consistently since my teens, and nearly always trying good books too, it doesn’t surprise me that a time came when I thought I’d see what it was like to write fiction; if not a novel, then a short story; if not a short story, then a tiny piece of flash-fiction.

On doing it, it made me realise I’m not especially into the idea of a story. What do I mean by that? Well, casting back to school classes – as a small boy in short trousers, not an O-level student – we were probably taught that a story had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Though it might not have been as explicit, it was no doubt inferred that it had to have a purpose beyond the writing: a message, meaning or moral, in other words.

I find that this idea has not died. Among the plethora of blog post articles on how to be a writer (better/successful/published/professional), I came across one suggesting how to write better flash-fiction. The author included a link to a free class and being a born-again student, I thought it might be interesting if not fun to do.

But having enrolled, I’m not sure it’s a wise thing to do. I’m not a serious writer and have no inclination to be one, to wish to support myself financially, even in part, by writing. I wouldn’t want this anymore than say wanting to be a one-star Michelin restaurant chef off the back of a love for preparing an enjoyable meal for two, each evening. I believe the work would destroy the love.

However, the class, and its forum, are dominated by wannabe serious writers. And, it transpires, these peers are also your teachers and judges – it is free after all – and they hold on to the rule of a story needing a beginning, a middle, and an end – and a meaning, and absolute clarity, and linear progression, and almost anything which ensures formulaic adherence to the traditional idea of a story. And that is not where I’m at after all these years of reading good books!

It seems ironic to think back to when I was studying English Literature – a separate subject and O-level examination at school – I would question why we’d be picking over an isolated passage from a novel instead of reading the whole from the beginning. And now this is what I like doing!; although in the course of reading a book in the usual way.

Maybe those lessons have finally taken root and flourished in my mind; or maybe I’ve been subconsciously conditioned to discover the beauty in the paragraphs, and pay no mind to the plot. I don’t know. But here I am, and enjoying it, and this boat is not to be rocked!

Wall #7


Digging into my saved Youtube clips once more, rediscovering the gems I found over the past decade or so. I think the kind of things we like to watch says a lot about who we are.


When the one and probably the only talent a comedian has to have is an ability to make us laugh, we should perhaps have a special high regard for guys like Bill Bailey. He is nothing short of being superb; broad in scope and insight. And now he can dance too!

The west London I knew has definitely moved on yet I’m aware of some of its changes, youth culture in particular. Here, the juxtaposition of acting cool even in mundane situations expresses the ridiculousness of taking that stuff too seriously.


George Formby is from another era. Not allowed to be overtly indecorous, these comedians relied heavily on innuendo. Ridiculous really as risqué was the humour those audiences wanted.

Unlike Bailey, Formby was poorly educated, left school too early in years and, I understand, was more or less illiterate, a thing he regretted later in life.

While he could play the banjolele, he hadn’t the knowledge to play in different keys. To get around this, he had someone tune a performance set of banjoleles with different tunings and played them the same way, only matching a particular instrument with a particular song.


A beauty of Youtube is when it throws up a performer I probably wouldn’t get to know otherwise; some of the talented people might be amateurs. I don’t know Danny James and I don’t know why the reference is to Hendrix; he does well on his own merit.

In my early 20s, I shared a house with a couple who were in a band, or trying to form one. The guitarist would often practice riffs or just a few bars of a tune, but never playing what sounded like a complete piece. This would annoy me a bit: it sounded good and then he’d just stop and go on to something else, over and over.

I’ve tried to play the guitar but haven’t the patience. If I could, I’d play whole pieces. I think I could no more play bits and bobs anymore than I could write half a sentence or draw half a portrait.


I’m a fan of Commissario Montalbano, both the novels by Andrea Camilleri and the dramatised series starring Luca Zingaretti. The theme tune used is from The Dance of the Macabre composed by Saint Saëns, a jolly sounding piece despite the title.

However, in one of the later episodes, the end theme was replaced by the haunting Malamuri sung by Olivia Sellerio. What a beauty! Sellerio is Sicilian and the song is in Sicilian too, not Italian. I tried to find a translation but couldn’t. I’m sure the title means bad love, or something like it.

Some years ago we took a studio apartment on the Greek island of Zakinthos. The owners took us to a local tavern for an authentic Greek dinner and there was a trio of musicians playing folk music by the side. Knowing no Greek, I ask our hostess what the songs were about; they all sounded feisty, and some sounded really bawdy, like rugby songs. “Oh, love, love, love, always about love, nothing else,” she said.


Further up the Italian coast there’s Venice, and further back in time, there’s Baroque, and in that space there was Barbara Strozzi. I read from Wikipedia how she was the most prolific composer in her time. Not merely for a woman, mind, but out of all composers of either sex.

When I hear this piece, I get the same sense as hearing the blues. It’s profound and soulful, and I love that kind of thing.


As an antidote to the seriously cold weather presently here in England, I’m putting up Third World and 96° in the Shade.

I had a copy of the studio album, bought after the hit single, Now That We Found Love, and it is one of the most musical reggae bands I think I’ve heard, mainly down to the lead guitarist.

Although a protest song, but like all reggae tunes, I find it exudes warmth and energy which envelops the soul and makes you want to move around and sing. Wonderful music.

Rude Talk Now

Sapio-sexual (n). a person who is sexually aroused by, or sexually attracted to, intelligence.

Humanity is so kinky on the fringes, I could easily see living amongst us a subset of folk who get off on pure intelligence. They probably consult each other on The Times Crossword as foreplay. I’m trying myself to be conscious of whether I ever find intelligence arousing, in a sexual context, and I’m afraid I’m not getting the glow.

Sapiosexual is a new word (I always look these words up, even if I’m sure I know the meaning already. Sometimes it surprises me that I don’t, but it’s an education). I also find, from the same search, the word, Pragmasexual, and I feel that may be more my line.

To be honest, when it comes to sexual arousal, I find that sexual potential is all it requires. It’s like when you’re hungry, or just peckish, you’re probably not thinking about Raymond Blanc, Gordon Ramsey, and three michelin star restaurants inside five star hotels; you’re really thinking about Mum’s shepherds pie or Nan’s beef rendang. Of course, the analogy ends there for legal and ethical reasons, but yeah, nothing arouses sexuality more than the thought of sex itself. And for that you don’t need too much intelligence.


written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #75 – “Sapio-sexual”

Honour #writephoto

A rose plucked and laid
red across a pallid stone
for love enduring,
memories of adonis’ wounds
mingled with a turmoiled earth
which, amongst the remains,
bore blossoms of a different kind
though red, not of a rose,
though dead, not for love
but honour.


written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo Photo Prompt Challenge – “Honour”

Up against Quintus Horatius Flaccus and Wilfred Owen, I ought not to try for a poem this time but I simply didn’t have a story.

I then wondered, in my ignorance, whether poetry was a higher form of literature and should therefore be truthful. From the heart, so to speak. I don’t think I believe in the sentiment of “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”.

Amour sans frontières.

What is Love?

What is Love? as Haddaway once sang (over a rather catchy electro-funk backing track which, in case you’re unfamiliar with it, I’ve linked at the bottom of this post a version of it with some natty street dancing licks.)

What is Love? We know when we feel it but what is it? Is it inexplicable, as is God and Art?

Of all Art, the most inexplicable form, probably, is Music. What is Music? You should hear some of the things I hear presented as Music; it’s hard to differentiate it from just Noise.

But then I was once asked to listen to an egg frying as a piece of, well, Music, in as much as it was featured on a music programme. The recordist had put a contact mic on a pan and recorded from beginning to end, the frying of an egg in some fat. Listening through earphones, is was wonderful, though it did make me hungry.


As promised, here’s Haddaway. Now, does it make you wanna Dance too?

image: “Lovers’ Hands on Sand” by Wilson Sánchez via Unsplash.com

Portrait of the artist as a boy

Thinking about expression and expressive arts.

All art can be expressive but I could think of only three which fundamentally require external evaluation; singing, poetry and cooking. Others can be done in secret, away from the public eye, simply for one’s own enjoyment. Fun is 97% of the reason for doing it, bearing in mind I haven’t had the need to make a living by doing it, being an amateur, by definition doing it for love and just that.

It has to be said, I have no ambition for my creativity.

“What are you trying to achieve?”, asked a tutor. Though specifically about one piece of work, it made me think about all of it.

“To enjoy myself”, I would reply now.

What do we remember of creativity when we were kids? We worked freely, expressively, without much self-consciousness. Or ambition. Was it us who asked the teacher to pin our piece up on the wall, or ask our folks to put it on the fridge door? I don’t remember that at all. We worked, it was fun, and when it was done, it was done. Success or failure, if we considered those, they were just passing moments; irrelevant to the great plan. Though I doubt there was ever a great plan.

Growing up, we are told there is external value to all that we do. Often that the achievement must be monetary. I have been told I ought to frame some of my pictures, exhibit them and offer them for sale. But that work is extra work and it is not art work, so I haven’t much enthusiasm for it; no love at all.

I am an amateur. From the Latin, amator, meaning lover, and amare, meaning to love. When you look up the word amateur now, it means unpaid, unprofessional or ineptly done. It’s as if the world doesn’t appreciate love as motivation now, only money.

Motive & Intent

“Be a winner, not a whiner; be a doer, not a talker.”

That’s what they’d say, those hackneyed, old platitudes patronising folk always throw at you. Well, maybe this time they would be right. He’d learn, she’d see to that; and it didn’t matter how long it would take; she could wait, she was used to doing that; patience personified.

Seven years they had been as one. He always said he loved her. And she was devoted to creating their little paradise of happiness, shielded, as best they could, against the hard realities outside life often chucks at you. Through testing times, but she was no pessimist, far from it. She harboured dreams and a determination to make them real. They would, in time, look back on a their life together with pride and joy – and love! Yes, always the love.

How could he do it to her?

At first it was simply gossiping she heard. Then followed incongruities in behaviour. At the beginning, she convinced herself these were innocent coincidences, what her friends spoke of was circumstantial. Her belief in the two of them overcame all doubt. It was when he didn’t show for a date. That was cruel, unforgivable. He explained on the phone that he’d forgotten, the pressures of work. But he had been with her, while she had sat alone, in their favourite restaurant, for an age, being given sympathetic yet knowing looks: Yes, here I am, folks! Feast your eyes. The Jilted Lover! Christ, he’d pay for that!

She shuddered at the idea of the divorce courts, the ritual humiliation, and, in truth, it wasn’t her fair share of the years of monetary investment she was interested in. Besides, a gun was cheaper than a lawyer, and more reliable. While he slept, she took their joint credit card and picked up the keys to their shared car. The mall was just a couple of miles away; she could be back before he stirred.

(328 words)


Written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge – #Week 58 – “Using Keywords”

image: by Marina Vitale via Unsplash.com

A straight piece of flash fiction from me this time, I hope it’s not too long. Interesting to me is how the keywords led me into a realm, or genre, of story which normally wouldn’t be my thing. Would this be the hallmark of a good challenge?

Freedom

“You only are free when you realise you belong no place; you belong every place.”

Maya Angelou (in conversation with Bill Moyers, 1972)


I’m unfamiliar with Maya Angelou, but I don’t imagine she means it geographically. I think it’s about acceptance, about being accepted as a person.
Toleration. Respect.

But what has this to do with freedom? Freedom, from what?

If you live free from obligation, from responsibility, from commitment, then how can you expect to hold onto respect?

And what is it to be free of compassion, and free of love?

John Donne, in his Meditations, in 1624, wrote of man being not an island, entire of himself. He is connected to others by human experience and shared values, of life and death. Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

So what of freedom? Elusive?

Richard Lovelace, while imprisoned for political dissent in London, 1642, wrote to Althea in verse. The famous final stanza reads,

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage:
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage.
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

The line that impresses most is, minds, innocent and quiet. If we do not feel at ease in our own mind, then where on Earth do we go to find it?


inspired by Reena’s Exploration Challenge, week #50

It’s a good, and difficult, challenge from Reena, this week. Being overprivileged as I am in this old world, I wonder how much of value I can say about the sense of freedom, unlike Maya Angelou, say. Mine is just thoughts and words, and participating in Reena’s challenge.

No man is an island, by John Donne (spoken poetry / youtube)

To Althea, from prison, by Richard Lovelace