Encounters – Amanda Fluff

I first encountered Miss Amanda Fluff in the convenience store on Monks Way. I’d popped in to buy a pair of Snickers, and saw her slip a packet of Fisherman’s Friend inside her donkey jacket. Unperturbed at my observance, she winked and promptly left without paying. Intrigued and indeed a little breathless at her audacity, I replaced my confections on the counter, and followed.

There ensued a relationship of which I was more passenger than participant. A lifelong rebel, Amanda liked nothing better than to break into the outdoor pool at Tamworth swimming baths and go skinny dipping beneath the stars on a hot summer night. It was during one such escapade that she educated me in uses for a packet of Poppets previously beyond my wildest imaginings. She was what mother would have described as “not backward in coming forward” – an assessment with which I could not have argued. I would have to admit that the prospect of mother’s disapproval contributed to my attraction to the wild Miss Fluff.

Ever the thrill-seeker, she was prone, through skilful deployment of a wire coat hanger – or, in the absence of such, an underwire extracted from her substantial brassiere – to stealing Rovers and Mini Metros and driving them into the night until they ran out of petrol. While initially thrilling, the danger in our escapades did not escape me. As a consequence, and although painful, I brought our relationship to an end after a few short but tempestuous months. The delinquent Miss Fluff begged and pleaded, but I held my ground and departed with a stiffened resolve.

With some sense of relief I thought that an end to the matter. Yet I could not help but hanker after our nights in stolen cars. Then, as I lay awake in my bed one night, I heard a vehicle idling gently outside. When I parted the curtains and saw an Austin Princess Vanden Plas bathed in the golden glow of the streetlights, I knew immediately that Miss Fluff had been up to her old tricks. My heart beat a little faster, and when she flashed her headlamps at me I was unable to resist.

We drove through the night, dizzy on the thrill of our criminality, ending our journey on the sands of Weston Super Mare as the sun rose behind Burger King. I remember the moment as we looked into each other’s eyes, sharing what remained of a sausage roll: we both knew it was finally over. I could now rest easy in my bed knowing mother was no longer at risk of being picked up by the fuzz in a dawn raid, while Miss Fluff had nothing more to prove. And so it was that we parted on good terms.

Subsequent to our relationship I heard she became involved with former Harlequins’ fly half Rusty Beaumont, who left the sport in disgrace in the 1980s following a scrummage incident involving a parsnip. I can only assume it was the considerable age difference and Beaumont’s bad boy image that attracted her to this inappropriate sportsman. As I understand it, they eventually moved to Telford, where they now run a massage parlour cum cattery.

Selecting multiple files at Compile stage in Scrivener

Here’s a handy Scrivener tip if you want to include or exclude specific documents from Compile. SHIFT+click or CTRL+click to select or deselect documents in the right-hand Compile pane, then right-click and check or uncheck Include in Compile, as applicable. Saves a lot of clicking on individual documents, which I was doing up until today!

I’m a writer, editor, and Royal Literary Fund Fellow.
Find out more, tweet me, or email.

Think. Feel. Write.

Today sees the launch of Think. Feel. Write.!

This has been inspired by my personal experiences of the therapeutic benefits of writing, and my work with the Royal Literary Fund, both as a Fellow and as part of the Social Sector Projects initiative.

Studies show that expressive or reflective writing can help us find direction, reduce stress, and have both short- and long-term health benefits. You can subscribe to site updates, read articles, try some exercises, and there’s a TFW Twitter profile. Please share with anyone you feel might be interested.

With all best wishes,

Martin

Why Me?

Hire great writers. If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. It doesn’t matter if that person is a marketer, salesperson, designer, programmer, or whatever; their writing skills will pay off. That’s because being a good writer is about more than writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate. […] Writing is today’s currency for good ideas.

from “ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

Get in touch to discuss a project.

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I’m a writer, Royal Literary Fund Fellow and Advisory Fellow, and an experienced workshop lead. Find out more, tweet me, or email.

Do you remember a guy that’s been?

I have an obsession with time and dates. It’s reflected in everything I write. If when watching telly I see a clock in the background, or can make out the face of someone’s watch, I’ll note the time. If the programme’s old I’ll check out the “first aired” date, then try to work out where I was and what I was doing. I’ll even try and work out the time of year in which a scene was shot from the weather. I do live in the past a bit. My mate Aaron wouldn’t be at all impressed. Today is 14 June 2020, and for some reason my mind’s drawn back forty years to 1980.

14 June 1980 was a Saturday. I was 12 years old. Most kids would have been at home watching The Adventure Game or Tiswas, but I was at either Tamworth or Burton market, with my dad at the former, my mom at the latter. I’d have spent the week at Rawlett High School. Mrs Pitts would have sucked all the potential for enjoyment out of English; Mr Blatch would have told us about weather fronts in geography; chemistry teacher Mr Clamp would have told me repeatedly to get my hands out of my pockets; I was not the only 12 year old getting hot under the satchel in the presence of French teacher Mrs Whitby. In Britain, Mrs Thatcher was relatively new to Number 10, and Jimmy Carter was President of the Good Ol’. Some guy in white called John Paul (the Second) was Pope.

Musically, things were very mixed. On this particular day Xanadu by Olivia Newton John was number one in the singles’ chart. Highlights of the year as a whole were anything Two Tone, Atomic and Call Me by Blondie, Going Underground and Start by The Jam, and topping it all (for me) David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes. These gems were, however, offset by Kenny Rogers’ The Coward of the County, Barbara Streisand’s Woman in Love, with the year capped off by the utterly atrocious There’s No One Quite Like fucking Grandma by St Winifred’s School choir. Geno by Dexys was okay, and they were from nearby Birmingham, but I never got the denim dungarees thing and didn’t like Kevin Rowland’s voice. Meanwhile, Don’t Stand So Close to Me was a hit for The Police: a catchy number in which Sting admits to fancying a young female pupil, and makes out his inappropriate thoughts are all her fault. I won’t mention What’s Another Year by Johnny Logan, other than to plant the seed of the song in your head so you’re humming it all next week. On Saturday 14 June 1980, we were just a month down the road from Ian Curtis’ suicide, and a few weeks away from Peter Sellers’ death. In New York, John Lennon would be seeing some places for the last time.

Approaching the end of my first year at secondary school it was becoming clear I was not academic, but I had a pristine shit brown uniform and a school bag full of other people’s hopes and expectations. Juvenile epilepsy was a relatively new cloud; formed just a year earlier, it would hang around until I was 20. I watched six hours’ worth of telly every weekday, and started my week’s homework with reluctance on a Sunday afternoon; Mrs Pitts’ 45 chapter summaries had no chance. In the end I’d usually give up, go to bed, and watch That’s Life and Hart to Hart on my black and white portable telly. Of note to me now is that this was the only period of my life during which I did not write.

I’d always written as a kid, but my secondary school years were a creative void. I had a Commodore Vic 20 computer, but no tape recorder to save anything I did on it. I had a CB radio, but hadn’t yet touched an electric guitar. Some music got me right there, but I didn’t know anyone who liked Echo & the Bunnymen. My entire childhood was full of love, and the kind of gifts that can only be bestowed with the good intentions of those who have worked their way up from nothing; but I would feel a misfit for another eight or nine years, until my creative impulse began to surface once more. Whereupon everything began to change.

So, that’s me on 14 June 1980; but where, and who, were you?


I’m a writer, editor, and Royal Literary Fund Fellow. Find out more, tweet me, or email.

Progress?

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As far as I’m concerned these two devices allow me to do exactly the same thing: write. They’re both portable, admittedly one more so than the other, yet they couldn’t be more different.

One cost me around a thousand pounds, the other fifty. One of them is less than a year old and will probably last me five or six years if I’m lucky. It kinda does the job, but I don’t particularly enjoy it, because the keyboard’s shite and it secretes my words away somewhere within its glass and metal shell, as if they are somehow its property rather than mine. The other is around 60 years old, and if used and not abused will probably last as long again. The keyboard’s fantastic, and it’s a joy to use. There’s even a bell. In return for my efforts the machine gives me sheets of paper with words printed upon them. Words I can annotate, cross out, cut up and paste if necessary. It’s always necessary.

One of them needs electricity to work, and required huge amounts of power to smelt its pretty carcass, and extract the raw materials used in its components. The other needed some energy in its production, but has since enabled years of green creativity. One I’ll leave as an heirloom; the other will have no sentimental value. One is laden with distractions and promises, the other gives out only what you put in. Warts and all.

If you asked me to choose between them, I wouldn’t even have to think about it.

The journey…

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Stafford Gatehouse Theatre Residency

Over March-May I’ll be Writer in Residence at Stafford’s Gatehouse Theatre. I’ll be seeking stories to fictionalise from local people regarding the theatre itself, Stafford and the surrounding area, with the possibility of publication on the Gatehouse website.

I’ll also be offering one-to-ones to writers seeking guidance, or those who have always fancied writing but are unsure where to start. There will also be workshops from local writers William Gallagher, Fiona Joseph and Maria Whatton.

For more information visit the Gatehouse website, send an email, or tweet me.

 

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