The Piper’s Debt: Chapter One – Mr Speaker

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There was no quiet before the storm: just mundanity.

In Shakespeare’s retelling of Richard III, the cripple king is haunted by those slain by the hands “sent before their time” the night before he falls in battle.

“A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

Swish. Chop. Finito.

In truth, he probably had a sleepless night staring at the ceiling, before hobbling from his bed to urinate, eat breakfast and then riding in a field to die.

Boring. Ordinary. Mundane.

Swiftly followed by a cataclysmic event that will change the world.

For a transformation to take place, there needs to be a disturbance to the equilibrium. The equilibrium involves dull processes such as making coffee, ignoring fellow dwellers on the bus (specifically named the X41, nicknamed purgatory), listening to a smug presenter on BBC Radio 2, masturbation.

What did the 9/11 terrorists do the night before the attack? Watch crap television whilst nervously glancing at their watches – waiting for the hand to pass twelve, transforming a normal day in September into a date synonymous with death and destruction?

Did Tony Blair and George W Bush really pray together before agreeing to declare war on Iraq? An everyday practice preceding a decision that would result in mortis ad nauseam. Concluding with the oft-chanted, simplistic “Amen”, funeral directors would see a big boom in business; and a literal boom in their neighbourhoods.

Amen.

“So be it”.

Mundanity before the storm.

What Mr Speaker was doing before committing a truly awful act was sipping a lovely cup of tea. As all authentic Englishmen know, tea is not just an art form; it is a ritual. The bona fide Anglo-Saxon is a master alchemist in the brew. Rapport – never respect, the Englishman never respects you – is only guaranteed if you answer the following question correctly: what comes first – the water or the milk?

Whilst Americans have to recite the Oath of Allegiance, Blighty’s National Citizenship test is porcelain, not patriotism.

And Mr Speaker was the epitome of the true Englishman.

He was certainly not British; an amusing collective noun lumping the vastly different English, Scottish and Welsh into one sweeping category (not forgetting the diverse regions of these countries – never confuse a Mancunian with a Liverpudlian). To be British is to be loud and brash; to drink cans of Stella whilst spouting casual racism; to be a Brexit voter; to holiday in Magaluf, and only eat fish and chips.

Mr Speaker was a quiet, learned man. Instead of sporting the native football jersey one size too small, he was dressed in an immaculate grey suit – tailored, of course – with a crisp white shirt and creases down the trousers. His thick black hair, alive with volume but undoubtedly sensible, did not betray Mr Speaker’s age, but his eyes did. Hidden behind horn-rimmed glasses from yesteryear were his deep brown eyes, weary. One would never too long into his gaze of his Medusa-like qualities emitted from his cold, hard stare.

The Brit – though, an irritant – is harmless. This Englishman was not.

Mr Speaker was exceptionally cruel.

But this was not noticeable, as he took a sip from the exquisitely designed china produced – funnily enough – in America; albeit from a Chinese-American gentleman called something unpronounceable to Mr Speaker’s hushed, dulcet tones. He would never rid himself of the regional accent he so detested – although he was considered well-spoken and educated; which was hardly difficult with the inhabitants of his hometown. Lancastrian, perhaps? A twang of further north of the border? A hint of West Country? His tongue had become so diluted over the years, only he was fully aware of his origins. There was no doubt his accent was attached to a community, but no-one knew which one. Mr Speaker had disowned the sanctum sanctorum of his childhood, replacing it with a smorgasbord of voices, and has since been of no fixed abode.


He was currently in Cambridge, his alma mater. Pembroke College is one of the smaller campuses at the University, but this compact piece of history felt less alien and more charming as a result. Its grandiose stone walls still stood intimidatingly over its occupants, as though they were judging those within. Unashamedly traditional, Pembroke is a thing of make-believe: the stereotype of pretty young things engaging in fantasy before experiencing life outside of the cocoon – bleak disappointment and underachievement. They became no butterflies as promised; they were moths-in-the-making. But for now, they were Harry Potter at Hogwarts leading glorious lives of promiscuous sex and excessive alcohol consumption.

Mr Speaker was sat behind the tall, aged desk of English literature professor, James Dawson. Books, with their spines as creased as professors’ foreheads, were scattered indiscriminately across the room. Volumes were sitting lazily in an oak bookcase, dusty collections were towered precariously on the desk, the floor and even blocking the sunlight from the window sill. Mr Speaker felt quite comfortable in the professor’s battered leather chair, reclining backwards taking another sip.

Aah. The optimum temperature.

A scratched vinyl span on the surprisingly modern record player, situated in the corner of the office – the only sanctuary from the infestation of books. Whilst the sale of razors suffers tremendously in this hipster age, the vinyl has made a revival. The record player, however retro, was the youngest item in the room.

Nigel Kennedy was performing a beautiful rendition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, currently in the midst of the Spring concerto. The triumphant, optimistic – almost cheeky – movement was contrapuntal to what was to happen next.

Mr Speaker was indeed quite comfortable – comfortable in the knowledge that he will not be disturbed in the literature scholar’s office. Professor Dawson was tied to a chair in the cellar below. He had been there for two days.

The flowing movement of Kennedy’s bow was disturbed by a loud gong echoing from outside. The deep boom bellowed from the Victorian neo-gothic clock tower, standing erect and aloof on the college’s library.

Mr Speaker gently placed down the now-empty tea vessel atop a well-thumbed copy of Mr Dicken’s Great Expectations.

The mundanity was over. This disruption was going to be something particularly nasty, indeed.

The Timewaster Diaries: “time worth spent indeed”

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ONE of my favourite parts of MediaCityUK is the word that illuminates on the roof of Dock House.

Each year, BBC Radio 4’s Front Row asks a person, who has contributed to the arts, to choose a word for its neon artwork project.

The current word is “words” chosen by Liverpudlian playwright Willy Russell. Previously, it has seen contributions from Danny Boyle (“wonder”), John Wilson (“listen”) and my favourite – and sadly poignant – Victoria Wood (“happy”).

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I was once asked by a friend what my word would be. The temptation for me was to suggest a crude selection, but instead I opted for:

Mischief.

And I could not think of a better word to describe Robin Cooper’s The Timewaster Diaries.

You can tell that the book is 12 years old by the simple fact Cooper is embarking on the dated method of letter writing.

If his tongue-in-cheek correspondence to the interesting people of the Freshwater Biological Society or the National Federation of Fish Friers Limited was sent via e-mail, they could have very well been ignored.

But the fact that there are responses jotted in ink on paper makes this collection of pranks très amusant.

You would be forgiven to assume that the correspondence was fake, written as sort some of parody of nimbyism Middle England. Whilst Cooper is indeed a character, the responses are written by real human beings, beleaguered and treating this epistolarian with a reluctant British tolerance; as though their reply has been penned with a sigh.

It’s the little flourishes that makes the mischief managed. Although I am appreciative of the grander prank, it’s the minute asides that provide the chucklesome moments.

When writing to the Royal Festival Hall enquiring about the possibility of Cooper and his wife performing there, he begins:

“We all love music (particularly my wife and I – even with her bad ankle!)”

The response:

“I do hope you find a venue that is suited to you and your wife’s show. Please send our best wishes for a speedy recovery for her bad ankle.”

Even when faced with a surreal request from Cooper, the victim remains laughably polite and sympathetic. You detect an ounce of pity from many of his new pen pals – but being in on the joke further extends the hilarity.

Big companies such as Debenhams are brought down to their knees through Cooper’s epistolary escapades. Five letters are exchanged on the pressing matter that Mr Cooper has lost his shoelace in an Oxford Street store and would like to launch a search party.

Through the giggling at such a surreal scenario, you really do have to admire the customer service from Debenhams who search the store at least two times.

The letters are surreal but subtle, naughty but not noticeable, tongue firmly placed in cheek without protruding through the side.

The Timewaster Diaries is an addictive book where time can pass without much attempt on work and housekeeping – but it certainly does not do one thing: waste time.

Robin Cooper’s mischief is time worth spent indeed.

Lion Heart: “a clumsy combination of genres”

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HAVE you read anything so bad, you just want to keep on reading until the end?

You are enjoying the time and consideration it took to make this novel so inherently awful, you just have to finish it.

Justin Cartwright’s Lion Heart is literature’s equivalent of Blackpool: it’s so bad, it’s good.

Perhaps Cartwright is feeling fatigued. This is his 15th novel, after all.

Richard Cathar, son of hippy historian Alaric (with a name like that, how could he not be?), has just finished a relationship with creative writing student, Emily, following an argument about Richard III.

As you do.

When you usually go on the rebound, it involves copious amounts of alcohol, tissues (for crying and fierce masturbation), and getting off with that girl called Stacey from Preston.

Richard is not a normal guy. Instead, he has a staring contest with a fox whilst cooking sausages and embarks on a journey to Jerusalem to find the True Cross.

Obviously.

Dan Brown is an influence. Whilst the Robert Langdon series hardly feature the most eloquent use of etymology, it is entertaining and thrilling.

E L James is a terrible writer. GCSE English examiners deal with bards, compared to her Twilight spin-off porn-fest. But it caters to sexually frustrated housewives.

And Game of Thrones does contain deviance ad nauseam, but it is cleverly crafted.

The problem with Lion Heart – well, one of the many problems – is that it has not quite decided what it wants to be yet.

At times, it is a romance novel. Richie is smitten with the jack-of-all-trades Noor. He goes into great detail about her breasts and buttocks.

I needed a cold shower after Chapter 5.

And then it turns into a spy thriller, with covert meetings with secret agents and aliases (a certain Mr. MacDonald).

Suddenly, we are immersed – or at least, attempted to be – in a historical thriller. We travel back in time to the Third Crusade where King Richard I is launching war on Saladin in the name of God.

Richard Cathar is obsessed with sex. He has awkward sex with his ex-girlfriend. He has a nervous breakdown and ends up having sex with his doctor. He meets a French widow, and guess what? They are duvet dancing before you can say, “I would have sold London if I could find a buyer”. If there is a film adaptation of this novel, I wonder if Lars Von Trier would be available.

And then he meets Noor.

A Canadian-Arab Christian journalist-cum-relief worker-cum-spy. After he has sex with her, involving dripping orange juice on her naked Canadian-Arab Christian journalist-cum-relief worker-cum-spy body, she gets kidnapped.

It’s terribly exciting.

Richard is so overcome with grief, he goes back to England and continues to look for the True Cross that tormented his medieval regal namesake. Whilst having sex with other women.

Thankfully, there are likeable characters along the way.

Noor’s guardian, her Auntie Haneen, feels like a Lancastrian Nan, inviting Richie in for a brew and a good old yarn. Yes, she is Palestinian, but it’s not hard to imagine she keeps the Gaza Strip’s version of a whippet in her backyard.

Although in today’s current state of affairs there probably wouldn’t be much of a whippet left…or a back yard.

There’s also the drunken, probably UKIP voting, yet still endearing Lord Huntingdon to whom Richie is employed as a speechwriter for a pointless but charming interlude. He serves absolutely no purpose to the story whatsoever; perhaps that’s why he is quite entertaining.

No matter how great the violinists were on the Titanic as it sank, you are always going to remember that’s there a bloomin’ big iceberg in the side of the ship. The double trills and excellent execution of pizzicato might distract you for a brief moment, but there is still no escaping the clumsy combination of genres and the obnoxiousness of the protagonists whom you are supposed to invest in.

 

The Psychopath Test: “the right sort of madness”

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I spend fifteen hours a week sat idly on a bus. Having been on this commute since September, I really ought to strike a conversation with my fellow passengers with whom I spend 32 days of my year on public transport.

But, I fear, after four awkward months on this commute, it would seem bizarre engaging in small talk now – especially when the first leg of the bus journey takes place at 6.15am earl-aye in the morning. And I feel like I would be considerably disappointed meeting them in real life, as I have already created nicknames and back stories for my fellow travellers on the bus to purgatory:

There’s creepy old man who once spent his entire journey watching videos of Britney Spears on his phone; ‘paint me like one of the French girls, Jack’, a gentleman who spreads himself across two seats to avoid human contact; and that one girl who always sits directly in front of me, even if I change seats.

So, I’ve decided to be more proactive on #dansbusjourney, instead of bitching about it on social media. In the year of our Lord (Rassilon) 2016, I have set myself a challenge: read a new book every week and cast my critical eye upon it. I took to Facebook and Twitter to ask you, the handsome and beautiful reader, what works I should source from the literary well; and bless you, you responded.

Thankfully there were no suggestions for Mein Kampf, which has sold out upon being made available in Germany again post-WW2.

Last week it was the academically interesting yet problematic The History Manifesto. This week, it’s Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test.

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Admittedly, when this suggestion popped up on the Facebook survey from Nadia Fawcett, I was somewhat concerned. Did this person enjoy the book so much that they went out of their way to encourage others to participate in reading pleasure?

Or was this a subtle hint?

Indeed, halfway through reading The Psychopath Test, I did start to question whether I tick all the boxes on Bob Hare’s PCL-R Checklist. Thankfully as Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, remarked to Ronson:

“If you’re beginning to feel worried that you may be a psychopath, if you recognise some of those traits in yourself, if you’re feeling a creeping anxiety about it, that means you are not one.”

Phew.

I have always enjoyed Gonzo journalism, where the journalist directly involves himself in the story. From the pioneer Hunter S Thompson to the recent Louis Theroux, Gonzo brings a more human – and I daresay less psychopathic – approach to reporting.

This is where Jon Ronson excels. His charming anxiety and scepticism are evident in his words, but he never lets them get in the way of his interesting interviewees. He allows these eccentric characters – psychopathic or otherwise – room to breathe and gives them a platform to tell their fascinating tales.

Whilst it may have been easy to mock some of the larger than life players (Scientologists, conspiracy theorists, et al), Ronson is non-judgmental in his role and lets the reader form their own opinions; although on occasion, with tongue firmly in cheek.

From the genocidal Toto Constant to the CEO who mercilessly destroyed the American company Sunbeam (and thereby an entire town), Ronson presents an intriguing array of characters.

Throughout, we follow the narrative of Tony, an inmate at Broadmoor, where we find that psychopaths are not a simple case of black and white; supposedly, psychopaths do dream in black and white.

Like Ronson, you get carried away when learning about the simplicity of the Bob Hare test and start to over-diagnose the disorder. In his case, A. A. Gill. In my case, a particularly frightening primary school teacher.

Hare is a frequent contributor throughout the book and although not psychopathic, his insights are invaluable. For a fee. He’s made a lot of money from psychopaths. You do question whether Hare is too unsympathetic, too prejudice against those who are diagnosed through his test: he appears to be more concerned with the identification rather than the cure (sadly, there does not seem to be one).

A chapter which struck a chord was ‘The Right Sort of Madness’: an analysis of how the media responds to mental health. It receives its name from Charlotte Scott, a former guest-booker at one of those daytime, Jeremy Kyle-esque programmes.

Ronson begins to wonder whether journalists have grasped that “sufferers of certain mental disorders make the most electrifying interviewees” and have devised our own Bob Hare test to identify them.

Charlotte confirms this. She recites her experience in developing her own Goldilocks Litmus test: not too mad, not too sane – just the right sort of madness.

As Ronson covers the potential psychopathy of Wall Street, it would have been interesting to see him explore whether it exists on Fleet Street – it feels like a missed opportunity.

The Psychopath Test is an entertaining and fascinating journey through madness, meeting eccentric characters with great tales to tell along the way. Ronson serves as an endearing curator of facts, anecdotes and wit.

He employs the right sort of madness and The Psychopath Test passes with flying colours.

The History Manifesto: “academically interesting yet problematic”

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“Historians of the world, unite! There is a world to win – before it’s too late!”

Somewhere in a dusty old library, an elderly gentleman has tutted at the unnecessary exclamatory sentence mood (A Level English there).

A Radio 4 listener has been rudely awoken by the sudden bastardisation of his beloved humanities.

A college tutor leaps with joy because someone has finally asked him: “So what do you really think about this?”

I don’t know about you but historians are usually the ones who report on the call to arms, not those who are commanding it. It was Pope Urban II who called for Christians to take the cross for the First Crusade, and ended up naked as they ran out of material to make the cruxes – so his garments was the second best thing. He was a central figure in Christendom, and the chroniclers were in the background snickering whilst they were scribbling down the events that occurred after the Council of Clermont.

When Anne Boleyn gave an impassioned speech to the crowd before her execution, a Tudor was trying to jot down the quote in the 16th Century version of shorthand.

Churchill’s infamous “We will fight them on the beaches” speech was by a politician, but broadcast by the modern day equivalent of a chronicler: a journalist.

Historians are the chroniclers, not the subject of the chronicles.

However, this is being tipped on its head by an Anglo-American collaboration, The History Manifesto. This new “special relationship” is a result of historians Jo Guldi and David Armitage. Together, they are calling historians to take on the mantel as economists, politicians, sociologists and journalists.

And therein lies the problem.

The arguments are eloquently constructed, their points are articulate and valid, and their expertise is undisputed. However, to politicise history is a slippery slope. History books, trusted accounts by trusted academics, can soon turn into propaganda; which is just another name for PR adopted by vested interests.

Armitage argues that by offering their expertise, historians can help resolve economic inequality and climate change issues. I, not for one moment, doubt his sincerity. Whilst ordinary folk see, historians observe. The selfless role of the observer is to present data and information for the reader to gather their own conclusions, not to make it for them already.

Armitage and Guldi are not radical in every hypothesis they present. They call for the return of “long-term narratives in historical scholarship” using the theory of longue durée – “going forward by looking back”, as they name their first chapter. They also use a quote from Winston Churchill: “The longer you can look back the further you can look forward”. They call him a mid-twentieth master of political power who was also a prolific historian. They fail to mention that Churchill was notorious for suppressing news publications during WW2, with some going out of print thanks to the Prime Minister’s efforts.

The History Manifesto laments on how society is haunted by “the spectre of the short term” – their unfortunate use of the noun conjures up the image of the villainous organisation from the James Bond films.

They are quite right, though.

They argue that the shortage in long-term thinking has resulted in disasters such as the 2008 Financial Crisis and Global Warming. Thought processes now operate in five-year cycles as a result of election cycles and five-year business plans. Gloomily, they add:

“No one, it seems, from bureaucrats to board members, or voters or recipients of international aid, can escape the ever-present threat of short-termism.”

Armitage and Guldi propose that historical narratives instead concentrate on decades and centuries rather than months and years to inform society on alternative futures.

For pub quiz and QI lovers, this is going to be a terrible shame. To adopt this macro-history approach, you will lose micro-history gems like the First King of Jersualem’s death was caused by falling from a balcony where a dwarf then attempted to him – both were killed.

Or during William the Conqueror’s funeral, his body had become so bloated in later life when they tried to close the lid on his coffin, the cadaver exploded.

The gist of The History Manifesto is that historians should take on a more responsible role in society. Armitage and Guldi provide an eloquent and informed argument, but historians need to carry as observers and not enactors. Their view on macro-history is respectable, but must be provided to the society to come up with their own conclusions.

 

Ordsall: The Write Way

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If you were to browse the treasure trove of literature contained within Ordsall Library, you would come across the usual prose of Dickens, Bronte and Wilde. Amongst the carefully catalogued books, computer screens and journals, hidden away is one particular shelf. This shelf is dedicated to, perhaps, lesser known writers. Stacked are the works of unfamiliars such as Scantlebury, Sharples and Thomason. The local library facilitates to local writers; and these authors live and reign from Ordsall.

But who are these neighbourhood wordsmiths? Well, you can ask them yourself – they’re only next door. Adjacent to the red-bricked, tidy library is a small hub of creativity. Creeping to the side of the biblotheque is a small room signposted as ‘Ordsall Creative Arts’. When venturing down the narrow path, it causes one to reminisce of secret childhood playhouses – kept secret from responsible grown ups and the mean kids who had a penchant for wedgies and eating glue in the classroom. Or even to the fantasy world of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series. Maybe you need to utter to Maraunder’s Map “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good” to track this Room of Requirement.

Passing under a wooden arch, you reach the door; pondering whether or not it requires a password or a special knock. Instead, it opens and you are greeted by a friendly bearded gentleman called Mike Scantlebury.

Originally from Bristol, Mike moved to the North West in the 1970s and has stayed here since. Developing a love for Salford, Mike includes the city in his Amelia Hartliss series – using MediaCityUK and Ordsall as locations in his novels.

Certainly, Ordsall has its own charm. Singer Morrissey started his Smiths days at Salford Lads Club up the road, and Tony Warren used Ordsall’s Coronation Street as inspiration for his long-running ITV soap.

Courtesy of apasciuto, via Flickr

Courtesy of apasciuto, via Flickr

A few miles up the road is MediaCityUK: homing the likes to the BBC, ITV and studios hosting anything from the Jeremy Kyle Show to 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. Stretching along the Salford Quays, in place of its industrial past are swanky, modern flats, trendy restaurants and bars, and the impressive sight of the Lowry Theatre.

“Ordsall has got a lot to be thankful for the BBC for”, Mike chimes.

In 2011, a producer from BBC Radio 4 came over to the area and set up a creative writing group. The idea was to encourage people to learn more about radio drama and even produce a radio play that might get on air. Three years on, the creative writing group is still going strong and they are here in the Ordsall Creative Arts room. Today, they are talking about weddings.

But first, I am introduced to Simon Pegg. Not the Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz star. He already knows how to write – at the end of the day, he’s been nominated for BAFTAs and British Comedy Awards. But a peg called Simon. A wooden clothes peg with the name ‘Simon’ scrolled on it with a marker pen. Other groups usually offer a cup of tea by means of an introduction. But this is not any other group, as Jonathan highlights by offering:

“The bride offered me her cheek to lick.”

Initially I thought he said “her teeth to lick”. But let’s be honest, neither are pleasant to think about.

The actor, not the peg. (Courtesy of Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons)

The actor, not the peg. (Courtesy of Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons)

Yes, weddings. The group are discussing wedding photos and videos. Salix Homes, as part of a pilot scheme, have distributed funding to various local groups: St Clement’s Church, the Community Café, the Health Improvement Team and Creative Writing. Over five sessions, the group discuss anything matrimonial related: dresses, memories, receptions and ceremonies.

Sitting around a long table, as though they are King Arthur’s knights albeit in a room covered in a hideous shade of yellow in Salford, the group partake in activities such as research, discussion and – well – writing; it would be terribly disappointed if a creative writing didn’t write.

Mike leads the group on a writing exercise that involves them using their senses other than sight to describe a church ceremony. As a journalist, it is my role to be an impartial observer but with the welcoming smiles and the gentle encouragement from the group, this session involves my creative writing debut. But my debut is less important and interesting than the contributions from the group. Whilst I meekly suggested the smell of incense from the priest, Jonathan suggests licking the bride and one cynic gave the remark “bring me more wine”.

Courtesy of rosarion94, via Flickr

Courtesy of rosarion94, via Flickr

“It’s very important to be in a group of writers,” advises Mike, “They know what it is like to write. No offense to your mothers, sisters, brothers or next-door neighbours, but they can’t sympathise like a writer can.”

Indeed, whilst your fellow writers may encourage you with constructive criticism, your next-door neighbour might send for the authorities. One critique from the group was “the three-legged dog was a nice touch”.

“The worst thing you can do is talk to someone who does not know what you are experiencing. To be able to talk people and say, you’ve missed a day or you are having trouble with plotting, characterisation or dialogue not being believable, is just brilliant.”

The feeling around the room is not one of standing in front of the X Factor judges whilst they humiliatingly deconstruct your work; it is a discussion. The discussion does, however, tend to veer off course.

The group are now researching traditional and non-traditional weddings. A projector and screen that I have not seen since primary school ten years ago is pulled up, and the display is of the most academic and revered routine of research: Google.

There is a dog in the Pixar film Up which has a translator broadcasting his every thought. It will start to have a long discussion and half way through will break off with the cry of “Squirrel!” This is somewhat fitting for the way the group operates. During the session, they embark on a discussion over weddings featuring druids at Stonehenge and suddenly they are talking about the allusive ‘10k’ group who received more funding. When talking about wedding photography, they decide to look at funny wedding videos on YouTube.

But this attitude is not irritating – it is rather charming. Work is achieved, but so is play. The term ‘community’ is used far too loosely nowadays but it seems very befitting to this creative writing group. These sessions could have been easily held over the kitchen table at Madge’s or in the back garden of Sylvia. And that perhaps purports to its success: it’s not threatening, it’s friendly. Whilst you might ask to borrow sugar from Jonathan, you could ask advice over a few paragraphs written that morning.

Writing is a personal process and the group facilitates that intimacy through shared anecdotes, jokes and tall tales. Whether it is the story of Mike’s brother’s wedding with a special cameo from flared trousers or the time when the photographer somehow over-exposed the film and lost all the photos so the guests had to re-stage the wedding at a later date for the captured memories.

This brings the group’s focus to a modern context. Replacing the flares are equally silly clothing as the Googled bridal dresses show. You would not have the same problem with wedding photos as smartphones capture your every movement.

Ordsall Creative Writing group are also prepared to embrace 21st Century communications. They have their very own Facebook page (“2 new people have liked it today!”) and Twitter account.

As the cups of tea are supped and the madness chronicled, the group turn to the micro-blogging site and think how to condense this session into 140 characters; I’ve struggled with 1300 words. They decide on:

“Weddings discussion: the sound of the bride farting, the sight of wedding cake falling, the touch of bride’s teeth, sweet smell of… #threeleggeddog”

And there is no better way to encapsulate Ordsall Creative Writing.

Part of the Ordsall Creative Writing Collection

Part of the Ordsall Creative Writing Collection

You can follow the group on Twitter via @OrdsallTrust. They meet every Wednesday at 10am, at Ordsall Creative Arts near the library.