Picked off the mushrooms grown on and around the bones that had been laid out beside the greenhouse for weeks now, weeks of sun and wind and rain and shattering nights and days, the mushrooms a vibrant yellow we didn’t recognise so when we went to remove them we snapped on plastic gloves just in case, not wanting to touch something we shouldn’t and get ill at this time of year, the sky a wash of watercoloured yellow and pink now as the sun set and then night and the dew came hard and the sun rose bright again, illuminating the pale webs the spiders hung across the gorse like ghost drapes, as if preparing for a redecoration, the start of another phase, something new to happen to our bones.
You may have been reading back in September of last year when I volunteered at, and blogged about, the second Guernsey Litfest. Well, the good news is that the Litfest will return in May 2014 and was in fact launched ten days ago… yes, I know it’s still 2013 but it’s good to get these things started early.
I have just posted my first blog of the new litfest – a brief account of an evening performance by Louis de Bernières which was followed by a workshop the next morning. There should be plenty more going up on both the blog and the festival site as visiting authors for May 2014 are announced.
A woman walks into a creperie and says, “So, I found this troll…”
More on that later.
But first – Bristol! Bristol is really nice. Rach and I went there to find out more. We discovered that the buses are awesome and it has good places to eat. It also has lots of interesting art on the sides of buildings, and a zoological gardens (see below for evidence).
But the reason we had chosen this weekend to go to Bristol was the fact that I had been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize (hurrah!) and this Saturday was the awards ceremony and book launch, held on the fifth floor of the Arnolfini, an art space by the docks.
Before the awards ceremony there was lots of time to mill around and meet the other shortlisted writers as well as the organisers, judges and everyone else who turned up – a wonderful group of people, all of whom were very friendly and interesting (I would try to name everyone but I would be sure to forget someone I meant to remember, and that wouldn’t be right).
After speeches from the organiser Joe Melia (who did a fantastic job of keeping us all in the loop throughout the whole process – I think ‘gusto’ was the word Paul used), Vanessa Gebbie (who handed out the prizes and whose wise words on the evening were perfect) and the chair of judges Ali Reynolds (who we should all thank for getting us there in the first place) the winners were announced.
Third place went to Anne Corlett (well done), second to Deepa Anappara (Well Done) and first to Paul McMichael (WELL DONE). Paul did extremely well to put together an impromptu speech, and then seemed to be in a state of shock for the next two hours.
It was time for the group photo:
And one of me and Rach:
Afterwards there was more time in which to mingle and attempt to finish up the last of the free wine. I was also asked to sign two copies of the book, which was quite thrilling!
We moved en masse to a place down the road called Renato’s for pizza and drinks where we stayed until everyone was good and giddy and / or tipsy – it was quite difficult to tell whether it was the alcohol or the good vibes that seemed to be having their effect on everyone. Writing is a very solitary activity for much of the time – I certainly go months at a time without meeting anyone who has ever written a short story – so when a group of short story writers / editors / enthusiasts get together there tends to be a lot to talk about – throw in a handful of illustrators / animators / enviromentalists / librarians / investigative journalists and there’s even more to discuss. It was great to meet and spend time with you all.
We made the short trip back to our hotel and I managed to end a busy day by finding time to read a few pages of the anthology before it was time to turn out the light.
Anyway, back to the story of the troll and the creperie. Whilst we were walking between the Arnolfini and Renato’s on Saturday night, Rach noticed a troll on the pavement and decided to pick it up. This is what it had to say for itself:
So this morning we had a trip to a very small creperie (the world’s smallest, according to the sign) to return the little fella to his rightful place, and we also got a free coffee and decided to have crepes for breakfast. Thankfully I managed to dissuade Rach from taking a picture of me with half the contents of my nutella crepe smeared across my face, otherwise I would be duty bound to include the photograph here.
Then it was time to make our way home to the wee island, me clutching my copies of Volume 6 of the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology, which I intend to show to everyone I know, and which I am looking forward to reading.
Someone was shooting at him, so he held up his bulletproof dog and the rounds ricocheted off it and lodged in the wall. The dog whimpered because, although it was bulletproof, it didn’t like being shot at. He stroked the dog to soothe its nerves. Then he got up, clutching his dog the whole time, and closed the windows and drew the curtains and hoped that meant no one would be able to shoot him.
The dog was still whimpering. It was some kind of collie. He stroked it until it was quiet, buried his face in its fur.
He fell asleep, despite the shooting. He dreamt, but his dreams were leaking, and the people who wanted to shoot him were moving freely between his waking life and his dreams.
In his dreams he owned a bulletproof dog, so he had made a hole in his dreams and pushed the dog through into the waking, so that he could take it everywhere he went. There were no rules that meant he had to surrender his bulletproof dog at the borders of reality.
The people who wanted to shoot him were not the usual anonymous, interchangeable dream sprites (lets call them unrecognisable unrecognisables), nor were they individuals duplicated from his waking life (recognisable recognisables). These were a new breed, fictional characters invented by his subconscious and intended to be disposable one-dream stands, who nevertheless insisted on recurring night after night (making them recognisable unrecognisables). And they were out to get him whether he was awake, asleep or just snoozing.
Sometimes he felt lucky to have people shooting at him because it meant he could justify ownership of a bulletproof dog. Having a bulletproof dog and not being shot at would be a waste. But he could no longer remember which had come first – maybe they were shooting at him because they wanted to take his bulletproof dog from him.
He and an old school friend ran through a forest that was reminiscent-but-not-quite of the one near their home town. The recognisable unrecognisables followed, mounted on hovering wraith-stallions that moved effortlessly through the trees. Every time he looked back over his shoulder, they had drawn closer. When they shot, he held the bulletproof dog up to deflect a hail of bullets and the dog howled it’s disapproval. One of the bullets struck the dog’s ear at a strange angle and ended up in the throat of the old school friend.
He woke sweating, cuddling tight up to his dog. He got out of bed and scrambled across the room to the telephone, keeping low in case anyone opened fire. When his old school friend answered he sounded alive, groggy, maybe a little pissed off at being woken so early in the morning.
I have a new short story titled Erraticism which features in Oblong III – the new issue of Oblong Magazine.
Oblong is a print magazine based in London – copies of Oblong III or any of the other Oblongs can be bought direct from their website for £3. It is also available to buy in Newcastle and New York, which is excitingly international. There is a list of stockists on their website, along with some examples of the kind of stories they publish.
Having enjoyed everything I’ve read on their website I feel as though I am in distinguished company and I’m looking forward to reading my contributor copy, which arrived in the post whilst I was away – review to follow (once I’ve read it).