One Sentence

I’ve referred every so often in these posts to writing prompts, or words and phrases that might make good ones. I then ask myself whether I’ll ever use them, but I don’t. If I’m honest, every time I mention one, I know full well it won’t see the light of day again. I don’t know whether that’s because of laziness, a lack of confidence, or the absence of a good idea, but whatever the case I don’t push it. It’s in those situations that I wonder what I’d write if I was put under pressure to come up with something, as I have been on occasion. Two weeks ago, I was tested in exactly that way when I attended a writers’ group at a coffee shop in Winchester.

It’s a place I’ve been a loyal customer of for a number of years now, but until that day I’d had no idea that they met in there. I approached them tentatively, notebook and pen on my lap. Unlike some of the others – including an ex-diver working on a memoir about his time exploring underwater caves in Mexico – I had nothing to share, because this was my first week and I needed to establish the lay of the land. Don’t get me wrong, I was still an active participant, but I kept relatively quiet, only dropping in the odd nugget of feedback here and there. This back-seat approach paid dividends, because it quickly allowed me to feel comfortable around the others and in what I was getting myself into. It wasn’t long before I was scribbling away without a care in the world, which is where the aforementioned prompt comes in.

“What I want you to do,” said the lady leading the session, “is to find the last message you sent on your phone, take it out of its original context, and use it as a starting point for a piece.” All I’m going to do now is present you with the line I found on WhatsApp, and the two-person dialogue that evolved from it. It’s amazing what you can manage when you’re given a little nudge in the right direction. In fact, I think it was enough of a nudge to convince me to go back again soon. Make of this what you will…

“Luckily, I won’t need it today, because I’m busy over lunch.”

“What are you so scared of anyway?”

“What am I scared of? What am I NOT scared of? This is huge!”

“It’s a coffee and a chat, and then you never have to see her again. My mother always said difficult conversations are best had quickly.”

“Or not at all?”

“Oh, come on!”

“It definitely will be difficult as well. She’s hardly the kind of person you can make small talk with. Everything’s either world politics or high culture, and there’s a time and a place for that.”


(a beat, then the same character speaks again)

“So why did you agree to marry her then?”




You’ll know by now that I have something of a penchant for one-liners without context, so I thought I’d report that I overheard this just as I was leaving the office yesterday afternoon:

“Alresford is the watercress capital of the world!”

Believe it or not, I caught another reference to that very fact when I was volunteering a few hours later. They’ve got to seize these claims to fame where they can, I suppose!


Hum It In Your Head, Part 2

Which songs have been seeing me off to work over the last two weeks? I know you’re all dying to find out. Here’s Part 2 of the list (as before, all song titles are also hyperlinks):


The Flowerpot

Of course, this isn’t really a flowerpot, it just looks a bit like one from the side. Actual flowerpots aren’t nearly as interesting as this one anyway, because this is full of baked goods – or it was, up until I scoffed them all just before this photo was taken last night. There was a mini biscuit, flapjack, scone (complete with cream and jam filling) and brownie, and I have the two ladies of the cloth handing them out to students to thank. As luck would have it, I’m still boyish enough to pass as a student, so they never suspected a thing. The treats came inside a paper bag that had “have a snack on St Paul’s” scrawled on it, and they’d thrown a little leaflet on top for good measure, in addition to a sachet of Galaxy hot chocolate. None of that changed much for me faith-wise, because I’m still firmly an agnostic, but you have to hand it to the Christians. They’ve always seemed to grasp that the way to my heart is through my stomach. Yesterday, when I needed a sugar hit and a nugget of motivation, I got both – and free of charge, too.

Maybe He does answer my prayers after all?


You Owe Yourself £2.85

If the title of this post looks familiar to you, it’s because it’s already shown up on this blog once before, when I wrote it on a Post-It note a couple of months ago. I presented it entirely without context, and predicted that I’d soon forget what the hell I was talking about. Sure enough, I have – it’s just as well it clearly wasn’t anything important. I actually found the note in the corner of my desk the other day, and now it just amuses me as a completely random sentence. I thought of it again over the weekend, when I was crossing the cemetery that separates the University of Winchester from the city centre. Passing a couple coming the other way, I heard a guy say to his girlfriend:

“You see, Milton Keynes is a brilliant middle ground.”

As it turns out, that cemetery is awash with out-of-context lines. I overheard this one just this afternoon:

“A lot of Hampshire is very Austenesque.”

What makes something Austenesque, I wonder? I don’t exactly know, but I bet you wouldn’t hear that in many other graveyards.


Hum It In Your Head

I don’t need much motivation to start my day, but I still find that a little push can help me get going. Lately, this has come in the form of music – and more specifically, the very last song I listen to before I leave for work. I love a playlist, you see, and I love to turn one into a little pastime too. With that in mind, I recently created one called ‘Songs To Go To Work With’. The criteria for entry to the list each day are simple. The song can’t be especially downbeat, it has to lift my spirits somehow, and it absolutely has to be the last song I listen to before crossing over the threshold. In addition, it’ll earn bonus points if I hum it in my head afterwards. All that means I can’t manipulate anything to make myself look cool (if I do come across that way, it’s entirely natural). What’s made the list so far? Allow me to present Part 1. Here, each song title is also a hyperlink, but you can’t see that without the white box behind the text:

Part 2 will follow soon. It’ll be interesting to see how varied the next list is!


Mountain Goat

I’ve come to realise that with all of the recent job-related excitement in my life, I have neglected Dracula somewhat. In fact, I don’t think I’ve opened it at all since I last wrote about it some weeks ago. As I said in that post, it can be a tricky book to get into, even if you’ve read it before as I have. That means that I could be forgiven for being reluctant to dive back in, and in any other situation, maybe I would be. I’m yet to have a DNF in this book club yet, but if any novel were worthy of one, Dracula is surely it. Having said that, though, I will finish it – and when I do, I’m certain I’ll have seen it with fresh, reinvigorated eyes, because this new job has made me feel like a new man. And I’m only three days into it!

Yes, any link this post actually has to books or book clubs might be tenuous to say the least, but stick with me for a minute. Ever since I was offered my role, I’ve felt physically lighter. It’s amazing how much weight this has lifted from my shoulders – all that pressure to find ‘the next thing’, whatever that may be, is gone. If I were able-bodied, I’d be skipping around like a mountain goat. As it is, I’m still in the wheelchair and fairly static, but my life is finally going places, and so is my mind. For much of the last year it’s been foggy, and I’ve struggled to see the wood for the trees. Dad told me that things were far worse for the people of Ukraine, and while that might be true, everything is relative – remarks like that certainly didn’t help me at that time. Happily, things look a bit brighter again now, and I’m full of enthusiasm. My eyes are wider and my head feels clearer, and I think that’ll benefit not only my work, but also my personal life.

I’ll enjoy my solitude again – it started to bother me while I was unemployed – but in addition, I’ll feel better about mixing and mingling with others. If you’ll indulge another flimsy link to literature, I think there’ll be dividends where my creative pursuits are concerned too. When the book club started and I was still getting together with Lara and Nora, I’d often be the one keeping them waiting as I finished the last few chapters long after they had. Whether it was laziness or lethargy, I don’t know, but this time I have a feeling I won’t be dragging my feet. Instead, I’ll be surging forward with my head held high. I’m hoping the text’s density might not irk me quite so much along the way, but as we now know, that might be a promise too far…


The Best Possible Way

Before I left Somerset to move back to Winchester in January, I jokingly said to the (always very helpful) lady in the job centre:

“In the best possible way, I hope I won’t have to see you again.”

We both laughed, but at that time I didn’t know whether that line might come back to bite me on the behind a few months later. Happily, after Monday’s news, I know that it won’t – at least not for a little while. Why am I bringing this up? Because yesterday morning, at precisely 11:40am, I had the opportunity to repeat those words to the gentleman I’ve been speaking to in the Winchester branch, and I can’t pretend it didn’t feel good. Not because I necessarily have anything against job centres or the people who work in them – they’ve done everything they can to guide me in the right direction – but because I now feel vindicated.

Many have reacted with genuine interest upon learning of my plan to move purely in the pursuit of work, but a few have definitely betrayed a distinct note of scepticism in their expressions and responses. There’s no doubt about it, some of them must have thought I was destined to fail. I guess I can understand that, in a way. It is quite a gamble to do this with no solid plan, but in little more than a month, that gamble has paid off. That’s possibly what pleases me the most about the whole thing, actually – even more than sealing the deal. It pleased the man I saw yesterday, too (who told me he also hoped I wouldn’t be back). Maybe it’s official, then. I’m not so deluded after all! I won’t be after I’ve signed my contract, anyway.


Very Few Words On The Day

On 30 January last year, I told you that I’d resigned from my job. I tried my best to sound reasonably hopeful, but in reality, the future was something that I really feared – it was cold, uncertain, and at the time it only seemed like bad things were in store for me. In the 12 months that followed, I often wondered if there would ever be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Today, I accepted the offer of a new role, and I have an induction for a voluntary position in the morning as well. At long last, I can see that light.


Yellow Smoke

How did you spend your Valentine’s evening? I spent mine not only single, but shivering outside too, having set off the fire alarm by burning some microwave rice. As it turns out, sometimes you have to put it in some water before you can microwave it. Who knew? I certainly didn’t, at least not until yellow smoke was filling the kitchen. Needless to say, I was very embarrassed, and I’ll make sure I read my packets much more carefully in future.

In case you were wondering, no harm came to anyone, and no firefighters were required – the smoke cleared once the windows had been opened and the extractor fans turned on. The microwave, which perished during its ordeal, has been replaced as well. For its safety, and that of my flatmates, I’ll be veering away from eating anything hot tonight. The last thing we want is another disaster, so I think I’ll tuck into some crackers instead…