Wednesday 25 November 2009

Fish for Dinner

Yesterday, among other things, I had the penultimate writers group. It was very strange to sit in a room with people you are scheming with but saying nothing about it!
Anyway although we’d been given homework I was inspired by something else that Anne sent out about a travel writing scholarship – more info here.
I was inspired by - 'A Memorable Experience Involving Food in a Foreign Country'.

If I was in a city this would be silence, but in the middle of the Ecuadorian rainforest this is the hum of a busy jungle.
Flies buzz, mosquito’s whine, birds call to each other from the tree tops surrounding the ox bow lake and monkeys scream at each other far off.
I am sitting in a long wooden canoe made from a single tree.
Something plops into the water to my right, but I have no idea what; an anaconda or caiman maybe.
In the distance thunder rumbles. But we’ve been here for three weeks now and the constant thunder and heavy down pours are just a fact of life now.
Out on the water the flies don’t follow us and we enjoy the luxury of having nothing trying to eat us.
There are six of us in this canoe and we try to sit as still as possible.
We are trying to catch piranhas and if we don’t we’ll be going hungry tonight.
I’ve never been fishing before. Not real fishing with a line and hook and bate, and I’m fully expecting to be one of the hungry ones.
Knowing there isn’t really much I can do to encourage the piranhas to bite I enjoy the calm of floating on the murky water. The rainforest is thick here and although I know the rest of the group are in those trees I can see nothing to give them away.
I have even dared to roll my sleeves up, so can feel a touch of breeze on my skin, a relief from the humidity of the forest.
Sudden movement behind me means someone thinks they’ve caught something. From here I can’t see it, but someone has dinner.
When my line pulls I think maybe I’ve snagged it on a dead branch under the water. But pulling it up I can see the sparkle of silver and before I know it I have a piranha on the canoe bottom in front of me.
It looks fierce and doesn’t want to be my dinner, but with a carefully placed welly boot and pen knife I stop its wiggerling.
I can’t believe I’ve caught a fish. And quite a big one too. It’s diamond shaped, about the size of my hand and it looks like some over enthusiastic kid has covered it in glitter.
With some instruction I manage to gut it and scale it and as it gets dark I put it on the camp fire with a selection of other fish.
While we wait for them to cook we sing songs in the dark, and I keep a careful eye on my dinner. The white fish is bony but with nothing else to eat, I’m not going to moan.
No one will go too hunger tonight; Alberto caught extra fish and made it look easy.

Suggestions were made on how to improve it, but everyone seemed to like the most of it. So I shall tinker a little before sending off for the 21st Dec.

(this is based on a trip I made to Ecuador in 2004)

Sunday 15 November 2009

Operation Christmas Child part 2

Shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child need to be in on Wednesday.
Due to the kindness of my local Clarkes I have a lovely orange shoe box which I’ve covered with Christmas paper. It is now filled with toy cars, pencils, chalk, a tooth brush and tooth paste and a toy bunny, among other things. Things that a 5-9 year old boy would like, I hope.
So all I have to do now is drop it off a one of the many places that are collecting the boxes and it’ll be on its way to some deserving child.
I hope someone enjoys it.

Monday 9 November 2009

Jane Eyre, Zombie Killer

On Saturday I made my way down to Southampton University for my first OU day school. This means that you get to meet your tutor and fellow tutees, which is really useful, especially this close to the beginning of the course. The forum is great, but its still hard sometimes to ‘get’ what people are saying if you’ve never met them.
Carmen was a great facilitator, giving us quick exercises to work on – minutes only.
We started by interviewing a character that we are working on or thinking about. Just random questions like, what’s your favourite season? Or what would you save from a burning house? This gives you a really good idea of your characters mind set.
We then had seconds to write a quick monologue, before sticking them on a tube train with the character of the person sitting next to you and having a bit of dialogue.
Even more fun was taking the key points of Jane Eyre and changing it a bit. What would you keep? What would you chuck out? And what would you add? We added some zombies, got rid of most of the romance and had great fun kicking zombie bottom. We called it – Jane Eyre, Zombie Killer, much to the disgust of one of the other ladies. Sadly the two ladies I was working with aren’t from my tutor group.

Wednesday 4 November 2009


Tutor Marked Assignment (TMA) 01 is in on Friday. I’ve been working pretty hard on a short story – 1500 words, and think it is very nearly there. I hope I’ve done ok, because this story feeds into TMA 02 where we convert it into a radio play or stage drama. And that’s about half my marks for this part of the course! Blimey.
But I have noticed a real change in my attitude to my writing. I am trying to write for about an hour every day. I don’t always manage it, and some times I do more, but I’m trying. And as I write I find that I’m starting to get more and more ideas. Not all of them will work, but the little sparks are there. Which is great. I hadn’t missed them until they came back. So all I have to do is survive the course and then keep up the writing. Easier said than done.