Fade To Black

Towards the end of July, I wrote about a script for a short film that I was gradually developing from a short story I’d written last year, Warm Leather. Knowing how badly I procrastinate, I was doubtful that I’d manage to get it finished anytime soon, but I’m now pleased to report that I’ve broken the habit of a lifetime – I have a complete draft! I typed the words “fade to black” on Tuesday last week, and quickly shared what I’d done with a small group of friends. They may have been slightly biased, but the feedback they gave was largely favourable, so for now I will stick with the draft I have – my next objective is to send it elsewhere and see if I can find some more informed advice.

After so many years of only managing to write snippets of script, it means rather a lot to me to have committed to this one through to the end, even though it’s only 14 pages long (quarter of an hour in length, rather than the half an hour I had anticipated). It’s given me a solid starting point to develop and grow the story where necessary, and if nothing else, it’s been good practice for the “Creating Short Screenplays” module I’m starting in Winchester next semester. I couldn’t be happier with my progress so far, and if I can find the right place to send it next, then who knows? Maybe this won’t be the last update I give you…

Mason

 

The Gym

What do you do when you want to go to the gym? You go, and you probably don’t give it a second thought either. I wish I could say the same. When I decided to venture into Winchester and try it out so I could write an article for Creative Non-Fiction, even I wasn’t prepared for all of the questions and careful consideration that lay in wait. The process began on Friday afternoon, when I sent a Facebook message explaining my circumstances and asking whether I could come in. After a brief wait, Hayley – the manager to whom my enquiry was passed – replied that evening. To my surprise, her response was favourable.

“Would you like to come down to the club at some point on Monday for a chat?”

Too right I would. A positive step – who’d have thought it? I was relieved that at the very least, whether I publicly humiliated myself in the gym or not, I would have some kind of development to write about. After the weekend had passed in a flurry of doubt and worry, the day arrived, and I made sure to head straight to the gym so that I couldn’t put it off any longer. I’ll admit that on the way, I found it hard to focus. I was convinced that my disability would make all of this impossible, and that the end result would be a resounding “no”, but luckily you don’t have a pointless conversation to read here. Hayley was more than welcoming, although I was somewhat surprised when she asked me her first question.

“What are your goals?”

Blimey. Goals? That’s the sort of question you ask dedicated gym-goers, not spotty little whippersnappers like me. Fearful of giving a wrong answer, I reiterated that I was visiting for the purposes of an article and we moved on to my limitations. Hayley gesticulated at the equipment around her and asked what I’d like to have a go at.

“How about a rowing machine?”

I thought for a moment. “Well, I tried one at school a few times, but I had to be held onto the seat. It’s still feasible though.”

“The exercise bike?”

I looked over at it, and it was clear to me that I would be unlikely to magically climb onto it, but I supposed Hayley couldn’t have known. She made the perfect suggestion, however, when she said she could have some weights brought in if I waited a couple of days.

“Here’s my email address,” she said, scribbling it onto a piece of paper as I left. “Send me as much information as you can about yourself and we’ll sort this out.”

Two days later, I was back, and everything I needed was ready. Hayley had her colleague Steph on hand to show me a few things with the weights, but first, I parked as close as possible to the rowing machine – so that my wheels were straddling it, so to speak. I then started off by drawing the handlebars toward my chest and pushing them out again, and the resistance from the cable meant that this was much trickier than I had initially expected. My workout had begun in earnest, muscles I clearly hadn’t used in a while were already starting to burn, and I had to take my fleece off because I was already sweating. Evidently, it was doing me some good! Once that first exercise had come to an end, I was given the weights, which promptly became heavier when I mentioned that the first set was too light. I brought them up and down above my head, in and out in front of my chest and around in circles until I was physically struggling to hold them. It wore me out, of course, but the further I pushed myself, the more I saw why people warm to this kind of activity. The sense of accomplishment I felt made it impossible not to smile, and eventually, Hayley had to insist that I stop.

“I wouldn’t want you to overdo it. You’ve done half an hour,” she said.

“Really?!” I was so engrossed that I had completely lost track of time. Reluctantly, I put the weights down. I felt as though I was only just getting started, but I was still tremendously proud of what I had achieved. Hayley seemed pretty pleased, too.

“You look properly chuffed,” she beamed. “You’re more than welcome to come back if you want.”

I was seriously considering it, even after being told that I would soon be aching all over, and it still remains a distinct possibility. Hayley’s email address is still in my bag, and after such a positive experience, she could be hearing from me again very soon…

Mason

Grapeness

Just in case you aren’t friends with me on Facebook, or don’t follow me on Twitter, I thought I’d post this photo here (I couldn’t resist, frankly). In an ideal world, I’d have something mildly interesting to say about it as well, but the simple fact of the matter is that it just made me smile – and I hope it can have the same effect on you. Have some Monday motivation, courtesy of something I found on a university lift!

Mason

The Pull, Part 12

Here it is – the pasta in sauce I told you I would be making after my stir-fry last week. I had it for my dinner last night, and whilst it obviously wasn’t the most complicated dish in the world, I am at least glad to have something else under my belt to reproduce in Winchester. With such a simple cooking process, there was very little that could go wrong as I sat alongside Mum at the worktop, although carrying a newly-boiled kettle with a broken lid on my lap did bat a few eyelids! I also had trouble seeing what I was doing at certain points. When it came to pouring out the correct amount of pasta on the electronic scales I was struggling to see the readout, although I did choose to disregard it to a certain extent anyway, since this was my first time and I wasn’t too worried. Mum had very cleverly bought a metal chip basket for the pasta to go into – she thought it would be too risky for my hands to get too close to the hot water, and that simply lowering it into the pan would be a much safer option. Whatever I did, I still kept my oven gloves firmly on to prevent my clumsiness costing me dearly – after we had finished Mum admitted that it might have been easier for us to pre-boil the water in the pan, to avoid any potential accidents with the aforementioned kettle!

Once I had managed not to scald myself terribly, it was time to heat the pasta sauce – and, if possible, I wanted to do it without permanently staining any of my clothes. Mum handed me the jar and asked if I would be able to open it. Recalling my struggles with the lid of the sugar jar we had at work (which always seemed to be welded on), I replied in the negative, only to find that the lightest twist was needed and I wasn’t such a weakling after all. The jar was not a new one, and half of the sauce was left, but Mum instructed me to only use a small fraction of it on the pasta. I was therefore determined to tip the jar as daintily as possible, with the ultra-cool precision of a brain surgeon. It would seem that there’s still some work to do on that approach, however, because no sooner had I made the slightest wrist movement than the whole lot had gone in. When it had heated up in the saucepan, I obviously had to stir it with a trusty wooden spoon, which would thankfully not be conducting any heat! I couldn’t really see the contents very well, but Mum assured me that perfect vision was not strictly necessary as I was only stirring to coat the pasta. I moved the spoon a few times clockwise, and then anti-clockwise, just to reinforce the illusion that I actually knew what to do – and then pasta and sauce were ready to become one (my clothes survived the experience unscathed). A brief mix then culminated in a bowl that is surely worthy of a Michelin star, don’t you think?

OK, so it’s hardly a work of art – but it’s yet more progress of which I can be proud. Every achievement is relative in magnitude to whoever has achieved it, and for me this is another big one. I don’t know what will be next for me to cook, but I look forward to potentially finding out next week, and if it’s something more interesting than this another photo and post will follow. I am now looking ahead to the exciting weekend before me – I will shortly be off to a local music festival, at which I will celebrate my 21st birthday tomorrow. I never cease to be amazed by how quickly each birthday seems to creep up on me. They feel like they come and go almost as quickly as my haircuts, and I have one of those every five weeks!

Mason

 

Accordion

May seems to be an unkind month in the world of Third Time Enabled. For the last two years I have only produced three posts in that 31-day period – two of the four we saw in 2016 were written by Will and Emily – perhaps due to the annual bout of writer’s block that apparently coincides with it. 2018 has thus far been no exception to the rule, and with the absence of any ideas for the continuation of Christopher’s story (sorry about that), I have been frantically searching for new sources of inspiration with no success. Until now, that is…

I owe this sudden burst of creativity to the somewhat unspectacular title you see before you as you read. As I came onto the blog to stare in vain at a blank page – which I often do in these situations – I spotted a draft post that featured nothing except for the word “accordion” at the top. I can only assume that it once bore some relevance to something I was planning to write, and that I jotted it down in a hurry with the intention of returning to it later – sadly, however, its original purpose is long forgotten. Upon seeing it for the second time, though, my mind turned to the excitement and intrigue I feel when selecting titles as a writer, and I decided to use these emotions as a basis for the new post. Readers do, of course, see the title of a work before they know anything about its content, so as its creator you can have a lot of fun tantalising their tastebuds with the names you choose. Some break the mould by being long-winded and conventional – and in stating the obvious – while others are brief mononyms that give absolutely nothing away. If you want to know what lies beneath its surface, you have to dive in.

I was faced with a new opportunity to devise some titles when one of the Creative Winch Buddies suggested we all tackle a new project over the summer, with a view to showing each other the results in September at university. A number of us responded positively to the idea, and the concept of “new beginnings” quickly arose as a possible destination for such a project, since we are obviously all facing one. I liked this, and decided to adopt it for my own – but beyond planning I cannot start writing it until July, so that means only titles currently exist. They will serve a collection of poems that act almost like a concept album, telling a story that begins during an uncertain period, progresses as the protagonist’s optimism increases and ends as they find themselves reinvigorated and content. Such is the positivity within my own life at the moment that I simply couldn’t have created any other kind of story – but I shouldn’t give too much away right now. What I will tell you, however, is that the titles I have so far are as follows (and they are subject to change):

  1. “Time Off For Good Behaviour”
  2. “The Spin Cycle”
  3. “Careers Advice”
  4. “The Motions”
  5. “Barren”
  6. “There’s a Storm Coming”
  7. “Rainbows And Unicorns”
  8. “Never Been Sweeter”
  9. “Spirit Of Adventure”
  10. “This Is All Mine”

The possibility of including an epilogue at the end is still being considered, but I’m obviously some way away from that point now. What lies ahead at the moment is an interesting period of discovery as I cobble the poems together – and not only will this process keep the creative juices flowing, but it will also keep me occupied during a long summer break. That can only be a good thing, and I’m excited to find out what develops from it!

Mason

 

 

 

 

Sliding On Out

It might not seem like an important detail at first, but when I entered my Winchester taster session last weekend I decided to sit on a normal seat. This was primarily so that I could access a table more easily (although Lara had offered to move it) and be more comfortable on what was effectively a big sofa, although the decision may have had a slightly deeper motivation behind it. As I stopped my wheelchair next to the seat, lifted the armrest up and began to slide over, I must have been partly determined to show all of the new people in the room the independence I am capable of. Whenever I do transfer to another chair, it does tend to make a scene – probably because some people don’t expect me to move at all – and maybe, on that one occasion, I subconsciously used that to my advantage.

Firstly, the footplates on my wheelchair are swung back, ironically to stop them getting in the way of my feet as I move. If there is not enough room for them to swing all the way, I take them off entirely, meaning that I have to find a surface they can lean against until they are put back on again. This usually involves at least a small amount of clattering about, and on Saturday that did turn one or two heads. Then, as aforementioned, my right armrest is raised, removing the only obstacle stopping me from shuffling sideways into my designated new seat. I start to move, and my bottom edges off of my gel cushion. At this point people are really looking, but I take no notice – I certainly don’t take it to heart. On the contrary, it is a good opportunity for me to show that I am not fused to my wheelchair, as one girl in sixth form believed until we decided to set her straight one day. I arrive in my new location, and sit back as far as possible to make myself comfortable – on Saturday, when I had positioned myself squarely in front of the table I needed, I took a moment to smile at one or two people who were looking, just to reassure them that I was OK.

Occasionally, I like to go the extra mile, just to demonstrate that I really can be fine without help. At Winchester this meant using my initiative to take my notebook and pen out of my bag before transferring, pairing them up together neatly on the desk as I leant across to it. I politely declined an additional offer of assistance from Lara (perhaps wanting to impress her and make a good first impression), and only asked for her help when I realised that getting my things back across to my bag would be slightly harder at the end. As I got back into my wheelchair again, she kindly kept her eye on me to make sure I would be safe, although she didn’t intervene directly – she could evidently see that I had everything under control, so I must have gotten my point across to her. We left with big smiles on our faces, having bonded so well – and, through something that is so normal to so many other people, I might just have shown her that I’m not completely helpless. That’s important, and I look forward to conveying it more often in September!

Mason

The Pull, Part 4

Any excuse to visit Winchester is fine by me – and on Saturday I had the best one possible when I set off with Mum and Dad to attend a second open day at the university where I will be studying from September. I knew from the outset that it would be just as immensely enjoyable and useful a visit as the initial one in October, and I was duly proved right. As we parked up and signed in after a three-hour car journey, my thoughts turned immediately to something I hadn’t initially had the chance to participate in at Winchester – a taster session in my chosen Creative Writing course.

In just one hour, the session would give me a condensed sample of what to expect in the three-hour classroom gatherings I will have as a student – and, predictably, I immediately liked what I saw. I have always felt comfortable as a writer, and any opportunity to demonstrate this is instantly seized, but even I was surprised by how naturally writing came to me in an academic setting. The session was well-attended, presumably by many of the students I will soon have the chance to collaborate with and befriend, and as I sat waiting for everyone to file in I found that was I seated next to a lovely girl called Lara. We hit it off immediately, and could hardly stop chatting – during the course of our conversation I discovered that she too had already accepted her Winchester offer, so I think we were both relieved that we’ll already know each other when we start! We worked really well as partners too, reading what we’d written to one another and feeding back accordingly.

What exactly were we writing, I hear you ask? Allow me to explain! After a brief introduction to the course, and a few minutes in which we examined short descriptive sentences and shared our first impressions, we were presented with a photograph to work from. It showed an open but secluded woodland spot, bathed in bright sunlight but surrounded by forest that was denser, darker and much more sinister. Just as before, our first task upon being shown this was to jot down what we thought of it. Rather than immediately noting what I actually saw in the image, I found myself thinking about its potential metaphorical significance, and seeing the part illuminated by the sun as a glimmer of hope – a hidden gem – in a sea of despondency. A light at the end of the tunnel for someone, if you will. When it came to placing a character in this setting, we were invited to choose anyone from a small child to an elderly pensioner, before taking a moment to think about why they were in the woods and how their behaviour might be influenced by their circumstances. I chose to make my character a teenage boy named Christopher – I’ve always given characters fairly random names, and he was bestowed with his for no other reason than St Christopher is the patron saint of travellers, apparently. Once I’d clarified these basic details, I started to think more about his background and what had brought him into the great outdoors. It emerged that he’d had an affluent upbringing with money in abundance, but that his life had been turned upside down following a kidnapping which resulted in him being a prisoner for some considerable time. On the day that he found himself amongst the greenery, he was running as fast as he could – terrified, dishevelled and devoid of the confidence he had been bursting with prior to his ordeal. He was running because this day represented his best possible chance of escape. I introduced him like this, joining him as he dashed through the gloominess and into warmth:

“Christopher sprinted through the darkness, trying to ignore the searing pain from the gash on his knee as each new bramble and thorn pricked at him. He knew he had to focus on escape, and that meant running and never looking back. He’d never have a better chance than this.”

I couldn’t quite write quickly enough to expand on that opening, so when we were told to stop after the sentence we were on, Lara had more than I did. Her story, if I recall correctly, concerned a woman who was out walking her dog in the countryside with her husband and child – both of whom had been driving her mad. She appeared worn down, tired, overworked and underappreciated, and neither they nor her mischievous dog, whom Lara named Scruff, were making things any easier. I thought it was a beginning with a lot of potential, and I was interested to see just how far the lady could be pushed, or if her luck might change dramatically. And what part would the scenery play in it?

My question was about to be answered. The next stage of story development saw us invited to pick an item from a table at the front of the room that our characters could find in the landscape – we could demonstrate how well we knew them by thinking about their reactions to these. Lara kindly went over on my behalf, and gave me a fading and slightly dirty blue denim cap, claiming she knew it was right for my story as soon as she saw it. Great minds think alike, don’t they? I agreed, and instantly began scribbling away just as it landed on the desk. Just as Christopher emerges into the sun’s embrace, the following occurs:

“Taking in the beauty and undoubted serenity of this hidden gem, Christopher spotted a faded blue denim cap lying unclaimed in the undergrowth. He thought little of the object itself – people lost things in the countryside all the time – but could it mean that he wasn’t the first to run out here? For a moment, Christopher kept his eyes fixed on the cap, briefly forgetting the desperation of his own situation. If its owner had escaped too, with or without their cap, had they found safety?”

As I finished this, I looked up to see Lara putting her own pen down. The object she had taken from the table was a jewel-encrusted brooch, which she also chose to cast to the ground in her story. By this stage, Scruff was off his lead and totally uncontrollable. He had rushed off, far away from his struggling owner, but stopped an instant when he saw the brooch gleaming before him. He alerted the woman to its presence, and she was immediately and understandably intrigued upon examining it. She may well have been distracted by its striking and colourful appearance, but was determined to get to the bottom of what it was, taking it to an antique shop. Lara never got the chance to reveal what had happened there, but it was definitely an interesting proposition in a well-structured story. Would the brooch make the woman and her family millionaires, or had she gotten her hopes up all for nothing? Alternatively, would it be something tainted in some way, or even cursed? Lara and I both saw that the possibilities were endless.

That was what made the session great. The amount of creativity in the task at hand made us both feel right at home and very comfortable indeed. Neither of us had any doubts about the university choice we’d made prior to the session and, if it was possible, we had even fewer when we emerged. Thanking the lecturer for such a fruitful and enjoyable hour, we left and said our goodbyes, even more excited for what is to begin in just over six months’ time. I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day, feeling certain that the session was the start of many things, including academic and creative satisfaction, endless social and personal benefits, and at least one wonderful new friendship with Lara. Life is good – very good indeed. You could say that just one year ago, I felt as though I was going nowhere. Twelve months on, with each passing day, I’m feeling as though anything is possible. What’s more, I’m going to make the most of every moment of it.

If you’re lucky, you might even discover Christopher’s ultimate fate one day…

Mason