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Did you know I have a ‘thing’ about water? Not a ‘thing’ thing, just a writer’s thing. I blame early indocrination on Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath and T S Eliot – and, oh, I could go on. Thus far in my writing life I have made characters fall into the river Cherwell, mythologise a trip to a Scottish loch, dance in a fountain, skinny dip in a lake as 1999 passed into 2000 and decide the future of their thirty odd year relationship by a duck pond. Indeed in a first draft read through of that particular play the most universally loved aspect of the play was the ducks and I understood why. I could list the one hundred and one metaphorical/ literary/ allusive reasons I come back to water time and time again, just like I could try and list the reasons why I could never live somewhere that wasn’t (at the very least) near a river. And why I have to make periodic trips to see the sea or else I might combust. But I’m sure you’re smart enough to guess them – or, better still, invent your own more complex ones.

The water thing, then, was part of the reason that I immediately loved the idea of Hannah Nicklin‘s The smell of rain reminds me of you. The idea is that you submit your (true) stories of kissing someone in the rain. As it happens, in the depths of my ‘Unblogged’ file I had one such story I’d already written up (but then, as the title of the file it resides in suggests, had never published because of things like scruples and privacy and the fact that the blog post concerned goes on to talk about my watching the son of someone famous take drugs in the lobby of a hotel. Ah, those were the days). So I found said blog, cut and pasted the relevant bit as – crikey – four years later I know I’ve shared much worse.

So now it resides as part of the growing collection of  The smell of rain reminds me of you. Th0ugh, no, I’m not saying which is mine (though, if you know the lyrics of Gary Lightbody then it shouldn’t be too difficult). And if you’ve got a story and feel even vaguely writery then you should add yours too to what is fast becoming a beautiful, funny and often moving project.

[As a side issue should anyone feel like taking in other weather conditions I have a cool snow story too].


I saw One Hundred Days To Make Me A Better Person on Facebook from someone I went to University with (the first time round at the Uni where we argued about Beowulf and Dickens rather than the second time round at the Uni where we argued about Pinter and gratutious use of rope climbing in plays for children). And as soon as I saw the project I knew that I rather loved it.

Josie Long’s idea’s simple enough. Pick one thing. You then do that thing for one hundred days, hopefully documenting it along the way for us all to share in. Then after one hundred days glory will be yours and, hopefully, you may be a tiny bit better as a human being. Or, at the very least, you’ll have done something which made you/ a friend/ a stranger/ your dog smile.

And, drum roll, my pledge is:

‘Once a day for one hundred days I will write a postcard (and, where appropriate, send it to the person concerned)’.

I’m going to write properly about why I chose this over on Distant Aggravation though I shall undoubtedly pop over here to bask in triumph/ never mention it again when I fall flat on my face on day 37.

But – 100 days? That’s a lot of postcards. And let me not think of the stamps.

So – what are you going to pledge?

Really I got in a little too early with my T S Eliot quote on my last post (the title is stolen from Eliot’s The Four Quartets) – for today is National Poetry Day and apparently Tom is the nation’s favourite poet. Tom’s got a lot to answer for in my own life – reading The Waste Land when I was 16 was the reason I made the decision to do an English Degree – but I was a little surprised, I confess, by his win (please, please don’t tell me it was for the cat poems…).  He’s bloody brilliant – but you can’t exactly hug him to your heart.

But then any list is going to be subjective and lacking many more worthy winners than it can possibly hold – me, I was a little sad to see Ted Hughes and W H Auden missing. Not to get me started on Wordsworth and Byron. Or indeed Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage. And since I’m here, where was Seamus Heaney (who I would have thought would have been a shoe-in for the top ten)?.

And then – well, how does one ever see past the spectre of William Shakespeare?

It’s pretty standard for me to have ideas float around in my head for a few years until something happens and then – bam, out they come. At the moment – possibly because I’m actively working on one project that popped out in a reasonably formed state a few months ago and another that has gestitated in my brain for less than a year – I’m indulging in some free form research for a nugget of an idea that quite possibly won’t surface in any concrete form for some time yet. But it’s still getting me excited nonetheless – especially when I read this:

“Although we think of the Universe we see through our telescopes as existing now, this is a mistaken view. We can never know what the Universe is like at this instant. The farther across space we look, the farther back in time we see. If we look far enough across space we can actually see close to the Big Bang itself, 13.7 billion years back in time. Space and time are inextricably bound together”.

Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You, Marcus Chown.

Which is all  a little bit terrifying. But also a little bit beautiful.

Back at the start of September, Corinne and I found ourselves in Shunt Vaults as the über blogger part of Write By Numbers has already attested to. We specifically went to see a piece by some friends of ours (by the company Made in China) and it was exhilarating and relieving that their piece was by far the best thing we saw in the Vaults (exhilarating, because it is always pleasing to see friends doing so well, and relieving, as you don’t have the conundrum of ‘to lie or not to lie’ if they are not doing so well).

What really got me thinking about this piece however, are the demands and lengths the incredible performer went to achieve her performance: Cycling non stop on an exercise for 25 minutes whilst delivering a monologue. And every few minutes giving bursts of acceleration as the performer peddles as fast as they can.  And in said bursts they complete tasks. And not simple things like, not dying of cardiac arrest, but tasks like applying make-up. Changing clothes. Necking a WHOLE bottle of champagne (I’m being serious). Eating a whole packet of chocolate digestives (if shoving them into your mouth all at once can be considered eating). All of which was done whilst riding an exercise bike extremely fast (I felt the need to reiterate that point). In the lulls of speed the performer had to concentrate on the small matter of delivering their monologue.

Suffice to say, all of the above was highly impressive. So much so that I can honestly say the virtuosity, the sheer ability, the commitment – however you wish to quantify – of the performer is what made this performance for me. The content was funny, well written and meaningful but it was the lengths the performer went to that made the performance. In fact, as my title suggests, the performer WAS the performance. Why is it that seeing someone push themselves to what we perceive as their physical and mental limits so enrapturing? Is it that we are really fascinated in seeing people: Struggle? Sweat? Suffer? Fail?

When I have my writer head on, stretching the boundaries and pushing the envelope of what performers can do doesn’t often occur in my thinking. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever considered writing a stage direction that reads something like: and the actor does double back flips around the stage for forty minutes (which isn’t to say that this was the case with this piece, as it was clearly devised etc, but just except my hyperbole for the time being). Such practice may not have necessarily occurred in the writer segment of my brain before, but it most certainly will do now. At least as an option.


Write By Numbers

Somewhere, deep down and not so secretly, if I could rearrange my personality a bit and add in a few talents which I don’t have then I would do so to enable myself to be a rock-star.  I’ve heard Simon Armitage say on a couple of occasions that he only became a Poet because it was the closest he could get to rock-stardom (and the audience which greets Armitage in his live ‘gigs’ attests to the fact that his fame in Poetry terms is nothing short of this). My, I know what he means (with the twist that I’m a Playwright because it’s the closest I could get to Poetry-stardom). Some friends and I have a fictional girlband that, in an alternate Universe, we’re ripping up the charts with. With my sticker-covered guitar and attitude I’m the lead singer who will, at some point in the future, abandon the group for an ill-fated dalliance with solo stardom.

Which is probably a long and winding way of saying how much everything in my life is influenced by music, and how much live music is one of my absolute favourite things in the world. I obsessively create soundtracks for everything I write, turn characters into songs and one day will create some great Nick-Hornby style homage to the songs which have changed my life.

Currently I’m obsessed with Frank Turner and thanks to the wonder of YouTube am wallowing in his live shows. And if any of those shaky videos makes me want to write something epic then this performance of ‘Love Ire and Song’ is it.

Angry, wistful, hopeful, romantic and just a little bit wonderful.

I saw this in a sides street when I was walking down Park Street near London Bridge (the same street where the original sites of both The Globe and The Rose Theatres are, fact fans):

I Know I Have Lost

I don’t know who wrote it, or when it was written, or, indeed, why it was written. There was something about those words, written on a decaying wall, that spoke to me.

Defeat, resignation, an anonymous cry in the dark…there’s something both a little bit beautiful and  a little bit terrible about it.

Write By Numbers is a new-writing theatre company. This is where we blog.

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