My first piece written for the Dialect/Lake 32 Writers Residency has now been recorded and published online, a radio play entitled Something Purple.
My original ideas for my residency were all set in and around the water park. I planned to use actors as well as the people who work and play in Lake 32, with the natural ambient sounds of the lake and surroundings as a backdrop.
And then lockdown happened. At a stroke, all my plans had to be cancelled/postponed and I had to return to the drawing board. Which in hindsight proved to be a good thing. The trouble with first ideas as that they can often be very obvious, the things that might have occurred to everybody else. Now, as I couldn’t (technically) ask actors to go to the lake because of Lockdown, I decided to make Lockdown the centre of the story: to have two characters – Carl and his Dad – desperate to get to the lake but stuck indoors, talking over Zoom. Dad, divorced from Carl’s mum, keen to cheer his son up. The inspiration also came partly from watching Michael Sheen and David Tennant in ‘Staged’.
I had been speaking to Cirencester Theatre Company about recording another of my scripts and they were the first people I spoke to about recording Something Purple. We recorded the play on Sunday 31st January 2021. There were issues with microphone noise, but as the point was to portray an authentic Zoom call, we worked around them where possible.
One of the most revealing things about recording your own audio pieces, is that it’s the best way to learn where you over-write. After editing the script several times, it was only when editing the final recording that I really grasped how many lines didn’t actually need to be there.
Many thanks to the Cirencester Theatre Company, Adrian McPherson and Michael Iredale for acting in it and Caroline Jalilli for recording & editing it.
My first submission to Dialect has now been handed over, a 20 minute radio script called ‘Something Purple’.
All of my original ideas for the project were set in and around the Lake and involved recording actors on site, using the natural, ambient sounds of the lake and its occupants as a background.
Unfortunately, Lockdown 3 made this impossible and forced a major rethink. In a way it has proved an advantage, requiring me to think outside the box and come up with a new idea to suit the new circumstances: sometimes the first ideas you have about a topic can be very obvious.
So, instead of a story about people interacting with each other and the Lake, my first piece ‘Something Purple’ is about two people coming to terms with not being able to get to the Lake at all.
Lockdown 3 has just been announced and teenager Carl is phoned by his Dad over Zoom. Carl is a very keen sailor and was due to sit a major practical exam on the Lake, but this has now had to be postponed, leaving him (in typical teenage style) angry and upset. Dad is calling to cheer his son up, offer support and (mostly useless) suggestions. Carl’s parents have divorced some time before and Carl’s mother has a new partner Paul, with whom Carl (and his Dad) often don’t see eye to eye. Over the course of the conversation, as Carl can no longer get to the Lake, Dad tries to cheer him up, by bringing the Lake – or clips of it – to him. Carl reveals an up-and-coming trip which not only makes Dad reassess what he thinks of Paul, but forces him to accept that he may no longer be the main man in Carl’s life.
I have used Carl and his dad before, in a still-to-be recorded script ‘Ten Famous People From Swindon’, in which Dad drives Carl back to his place in Swindon for the weekend. It’s a road movie, showing Carl and his Dad reconnecting and trying to adjust to their separate lives.
I decided to walk down the Lake on Sunday morning, as I’m not keen on cycling or driving over fresh snow. It took just under an hour to get to Lake 32 down the Quiet Lane through Shorncote.
The Lake was silent and almost deserted, a couple of people using the facilities and one person working. Another day suited more for capturing images rather than recording sound. Although I do love photographing in snow, especially somewhere like the Lake, filled with weatherbeaten objects such as the yachts and kayaks. I love the contrast between the freeform and the regular, between the natural outlines of fresh snow against the artificial and usually well-worn. The snow always seems to reminding you who’s really in charge.
At the lake for more recording, a cold but beautifully clear day. The sun bright, with enough of a haze to make your photographs look extra special. Due to the new Lockdown I was the only person there, apart from a couple of dog walkers.
The wind was low enough to avoid microphone noise, but too low to generate any of the cable rattling that sounds quite sinister on playback, when you have no context and have to imagine what it is. Recorded some miscellaneous birds and some fighting moor hens. Even on a quiet Sunday morning regular car and aeroplane noise.
Three swans passed, one after the other. The first gliding serenely, the second in great pulses of effort, as though it were doing the breast stroke, the third coughing.
My first official visit to Lake 32/Waterland yesterday as Writer in Residence for January. A 15 minute cycle from home down the Quiet Lane, even quieter now it’s been sealed off with concrete blocks at both ends.
The threatened rain didn’t appear and I had the place almost to myself as I missed the early rush of outdoor swimmers when the centre opened at 8am. So, a first reconnaissance and a chance to work on some character and story ideas in situ. I walked around the entire lake recording what I could (despite a fair amount of wind noise), a few coots, some intriguing water sounds and the oddly sinister rattle of cables against yacht masts.
Everywhere had closed by the time I finished my circuit so I had the added fun of hauling my bike over the locked gate at Cotswold Water Park, my own fault for not checking the times before I set off.
Most of the recordings pretty much useless due to wind noise, so my first task is to buy get a proper ‘dead cat’ wind shield for recording outside.
Delighted to confirm that as of January 2021 I will be an official Writer in Residence at Lake 32 on the Cotswold Water Parks. It’s unpaid, but I get free swimming. Outdoors. In January. Wonder if I get an official wetsuit?!
Really looking forward to it, some very talented people involved, and I already have some good ideas of what I want to write, most likely to be audio. #dialectxwaterland
Vulpes Vulpes began as prose, a story about City Foxes, inspired by the Fox who trotted past my office window (in the middle of Cirencester) back in 2000.
It’s grown into three interlinked stories. Three city dwellers meet and interact with the Foxes with whom they share the city, in strikingly different ways.
The Newcomer: unsure of her place in the city, startled by the Fox she sees outside her office window, becoming interested – and gradually obsessed – by what has driven them to the City. Amidst growing food shortages, she is eventually inspired by their ingenuity to give up her dull existence and attempt to become an Urban Fox herself.
The Crazy Guy: discovering Foxes in his back garden, inspired by their intelligence and cunning, he begins campaigning to have them elected to the City Council. He argues with passers-by, attempting to persuade them to join the Movement: to vote Fox. Secretly he dreams that should they win, he will become important as one of their earliest followers.
The Lover: drawn to a mysterious female on a station platform, he sets out to win her. Inspired by the City Foxes, he teaches himself to stalk her, track her movements and find the courage to approach her. Their relationship is passionate but brief; enraged by her natural selfishness, he accepts there is no room for both her and the predator he himself has become, ultimately deciding it will be necessary to kill her.
I now plan to turn it into a script and the basic idea has now been turned into a proposal and submitted to Paines Plough for their First Commissions opportunity.
A Folk Mystery about Time and Family, in 6 30 minute episodes.
Submission for the Audible WriterSlam Audio Drama opportunity.
When Cathy Stone dies in a car crash early on New Year’s day, her estranged daughter Bella returns to Middle Churney, her sleepy Gloucestershire home-town, to handle the aftermath.
Bella reconnects with Olivia and Kate. Though born on the same day and friends throughout childhood, they have begun drifting apart, struggling with looming adulthood.
Bella is determined to return to University, denying Kate and Olivia’s insistence that Cathy’s untimely death breaks the chain of a hereditary sisterhood. She refuses Cathy’s brother John’s demands for help uncovering Cathy’s secret links to legendary local predator, the Churney Cat.
Kate discovers Cathy’s death not accidental, convincing Bella to help investigate. Bella helps them trace reluctant relatives, revisit mysteries Cathy taught them in childhood and deal with Cathy’s final legacy: an immense Planting involving Middle Churney’s gardeners, allotment-holders and farmers, entitled ’Persephone’s Carpet’, due to culminate at Midsummer.
Ultimately, they discover John himself caused Cathy’s death, jealous of secrets from which he was always excluded.
Unexpectedly attacked by the Cat, John’s last words are a warning that Persephone’s Carpet will unlock a centuries-old Temporal Prison, releasing its unknown inmate.
My short story ‘The Corvidae Diary’ has been selected as one of the 10 to be read at Stroud Short Stories 20. Originally planned for April, the event (ironically entitled ‘Disruptions’!) has understandably had to be postponed to November, due to the restrictions recommended by the Coronavirus AKA COVID-19.
I am delighted to be reading again, this will be my third time, following ‘A Winter Wedding’ in 2015 and ‘Cargo’ in 2018.
The Corvidae Diary is possibly the most topical story I have ever written. Its narrator, stuck in self-isolation following the outbreak of a virulent virus, contemplates his life and attempts to work from home while enduring the Climate change protesters camped outside his apartment building. Slowly, as his daily temperature readings rise to dangerous levels as the virus takes hold, he begins to accept a connection between the biosphere, the virus and the enthusiastic young protesters he resents yet comes to admire.
I named my virus Corvidae after mishearing/misreading COVID-19 as CORVID-19. I think I assumed that the WHO (in an act of spectacularly dark humour) had selected CORVID from Corvidae, the order of Passerine (it’s to do with the configuration of their toes) singing birds including the carrion birds Ravens, Crows & Magpies.
I once studied a famously gloomy Scottish poem (about death, naturally) entitled ‘The Twa Corbies’, Corbie (from Corvidae) being an old Scottish word for Raven.