Photo Collage by Karen Rust
By Kathleen Hoyle
As a new student to the Creative Writing MA course at the University of Leicester, I’m still finding my feet. I’ve never thought of myself as particularly academic and still wonder how I’ve made it this far. So, with an open mind I’ve started the course, with a willingness and enthusiasm to learn all I can.
I must admit, then, when our tutor Harry Whitehead told us we were going on a ‘magical mystery tour’ down an alleyway, on a cold and rainy Wednesday afternoon in November, my enthusiasm waned a little.
We donned our coats hats, and, in my case, a broken brolly that battled with the wind half-heartedly throughout and set out somewhat half-heartedly.
But something DID transpire on that walk … you CAN find ideas in the mundane; even the brollies were a topic of discussion – my broken and deluded pound shop one, Harry’s smart and expensive one and Laura’s beautifully bright rainbow one. Harry was right all along.
The alleyway chosen was dim and broken. There since Victorian times, it sagged behind run-down flats and overgrown gardens. But what treasures we found!
A carrier bag, possessed with the spirits of addicts and drunks.
Romeo and Juliet’s balcony?
A bleeding wall - gothic horror.
Madge the mattress, an old prostitute with stories to tell, if only someone would listen.
Locks and signs, dark holes, all stories with a threatening tone.
We all sat in the pub afterwards warm, toasty and elated. A babble of conversation and short story ideas, all flowing from a short walk through an alleyway. Harry explained that, as writers, we must learn to observe and embrace the mundane in order to bring our stories to life and we should never dismiss anything, even an old chip box or a cigarette end, as a source of inspiration.
It really was a great learning experience but maybe next time we can try it on a sunny day please, Harry?
By Louise Brown
The Magical Mystery Tour defied my expectations. I suspected it would be a dreary activity and wondered what was the point of viewing the litter and grimy parts of Leicester? however, the exhortations of Harry Whitehead to find inspiration in the ordinary came to life as we wandered down Oxford Avenue.
The debrief in the pub later over a fine pint of cider was great fun. Hearing what others had come up with amazed me. One student's observation was that everywhere he looked there were “threats.” He was referring to various notices warning people they may die (electrocution hazards) or that prosecution may occur for trespassing. As my day job is that of a Solicitor I hadn’t even noticed them.
I came away thinking the ordinary is not ordinary at all; it’s just that our minds stop looking at things. We become inured and deadened to all around us. The strange sight of green and red protrusions on a brick wall, and a bin with the address daubed on in dripping paint, both of which struck me as ghoulish, had sparked my imagination. As a result, I had a go at writing a comic ghost story, and discovered that trying to be funny is hard. However, trying something new is a must for every aspiring writer. I have included a small excerpt below from my work in progress:
.... She caught up with her dog and did a double-take. Strange growths in the shape of entrails had appeared on the bricks, coloured green and red. The house was alive and growing and it seemed to have spilt its guts overnight. Maybe it had always been there, she wondered, doubting her powers of observation.
She remembered she had drunk all the gin yesterday. A trip to the off-licence beckoned.
She proceeded down the alleyway. What’s the matter with the damn animal? It was barking at a dustbin now. That’s weird, she thought: someone had emblazoned on it in white paint 10 Oxford Avenue. The paint dripped down a little making it resemble white blood, and the title of some horror movie.
By Colin Gardiner
There are places where the dispossessed drift.
Lost wraiths, turned inside out and pummelled
In a whispered supermarket séance.
There’s black magic in the arterial flex
Of the back alley. Ductile will-o’-the-wisp
Is happy to lead you here, all alone.
Step over the crunching beer-glass carpet
And heed the orange shopping bag, tittering
Tales in the déjà vu of carpark darkness.
Plastic poltergeist gossip, reporting
Curtain twitch domestic, late night gang fight
And a screaming back-seat exorcism.
Rustling omens in abandoned sheds,
Undecipherable to surveillance
Heads, who dream in back-yard video loops.
Rough handles reach into an empty sky,
Grasping at the dust illuminated by
Whispering arcs of loveless sodium.
Behind you, an evil asthmatic wheeze
Tickling the spinal aerial lines.
Plastic sighs of longing: you belong here.