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Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Raw material

Ever found yourself in a literary desert, lacking things to say? Why not write about the desert?

I'd hardly sifted a handful of sand when my attention was seized. My first-floor study overlooks an uncultivated mini-park where people unleash their dogs. A woman - immediately attractive even at a hundred metres – walks purposefully. Ah yes, plastic bag of dog poo in hand, trash bin in sight.

By attractive I don’t mean pretty; interesting in a pleasing way. Face obscured by the high collar of a blue “puffer” anorak. Mid-length blonde hair artfully scattered. Tight-fitting jodphurs. I ignored her dog and am ashamed I didn’t notice its owner's footwear. She walked sleekly like a catwalk model, legs close together: following her own imaginary tightrope.

So what have we got? It was earlyish so she was no lie-abed. Socially conscientious given the poo-bag. Probably monied since no one buys jodphurs and wears them as jeans. A graceful mover who stopped occasionally to observe her dog and others.

Not enough to launch a novel, though it has happened. Perhaps the younger sister of the leading male or female character; a moral force augmented by her uncaring attitude towards her own looks. Irritated when patronised. Does drudgery jobs (eg, walking the dog) so she can be alone with her thoughts. Will be going on to the stables for a long session in the saddle, her true delight.

Of course, there’s always the desert. Dog-poo lady might well be good there. Silent, self-reliant, controlling a camel well. Looking terrific in a black and white keffiyeh. Careful, I mustn’t patronise.


  1. Well, you've hooked me! (A jodphurs-wearing camel rider? You bet!)

    You write it, I'll read it.

  2. Crow: Nice to hear from you. The idea was to record reality and see where it led; the trick being I had no idea when I first observed her. A short story is the most obvious solution but I lack one final "click", some other as yet unimagined development. And for this I depend on that unpredictable external force - some call it a deity - to get me off my ass. The last short story I wrote (about a guy trying to make a living in Ohio after surviving Viet Nam) grew out of my own equivocal attitude to guns and I felt I had to write it. This lady doesn't yet carry that compulsion.

    You were in my mind four months ago. My French teacher of twenty years died in December; I was with her, in the hospice, twenty-four hours before it happened; a strange coincidence arose there and I blogged about it. She was a Quaker and her husband would have liked me to say some words about her at the subsequent meeting. Alas I was in Germany at the time. I truly regret that; over the years, as I hope you know, I have developed a certain interest in Quakerism and in any case I owed her a lot.

  3. We litter the unwritten novels behind us every day...

  4. Marly: A bit like taking the back off a watch.