Monday 5 December 2016

Day 5: Sparks by Margaret Bulleyment

One of the many good things about writing is that you can get your characters to act on your behalf and get away with it.

When you step off the Park and Ride bus in the centre of Oxford, you can turn left and head down to the delights of the Bodleian Library, the Sheldonian Theatre, the Radcliffe Camera and the Oxford visitors expect to see, or you can turn right, (Oxford comma)  and come face to face with an ‘eatery’ ( I refuse to call it a restaurant) that has ‘Eat beautiful’ written all over it. For many years,  I have longed to paint an ‘ly’ on every single adjective while screaming, ‘It’s Oxford for God’s sake!’

I did march into the Bed’s shop in Banbury and accost the management, who could not understand why I was so incensed with their shop. ‘Were the prices too high ?’
Sparks is the result of just a few incidents like the ones above, which I am sure other word-lovers will recognise and I hope, endorse.

I usually write short stories and have had several published by small presses – Wyvern, Alfie Dog etc. This is my third story to be published by Bridge House. My stories tend to contain a lot of dialogue, which is probably why I also enjoy writing short plays. I have been short-listed in several competitions, and in the finals of writing and directing competitions, I have had a couple of plays performed professionally in small theatres.  Having your words come out of an actor’s mouth is very satisfying, especially as you hear the audience’s reaction.

My full-length children’s play Caribbean Calypso was published by Trinity College of Music and Drama in 2011, as runner up in their International Playwriting Competition, for a play for performance by primary-aged children. It is based on the Tiger and Anansi stories – although crucially, there are no tigers in the Caribbean. The play is now also listed on the TreePress play site.

My writing routine is to write when I can, but unless I book my writing into my diary just like everything else, other activities can all too easily, take over.

I write in my ‘playroom’ which is bedroom three, with my clavinova behind me and with cupboards of music and bulging bookcases, on either side. I face the window which looks out on our front garden and lots of village trees. A few hundred yards away, is the house where Iris Murdoch once lived. I used to greet her at the postbox every morning and  imagine her posting some great work, while I was sending my Barclaycard cheque.

It might be easier to say what was unquirky about me. Some years ago at a teacher’s workshop, we had to reply instantly to quick-fire questions. Mine was What makes you unique? My answer was I am probably the only English person who has been to Greenland, but not to Scotland. I have no idea why that sprung into my head, but a
few months ago, my husband and I ended up in Berwick-upon-Tweed and when my husband suggested we cross the border, I replied that I could not possibly do that.  Perhaps I should stick with being an unofficial expert on Fifties children’s television.

Extract from Sparks 


“I think it might be better if you came down, now, madam. It could be dangerous up there.”

“Stuff and nonsense, officer. It’s not dangerous, it’s monstrous. Look at it!”

From the pavement, all Ed could see was the old lady’s outstretched arm, as she slapped a chunk of gaffer tape on to the shop sign. “How on earth can anyone own, or work in a shop, where every spelling of it is incorrect, inside and out. This is Oxford, for God’s sake, an ancient university city!”

Ed stepped on to the bottom rung of her stepladder and tried to gently move her down, but she did not budge.

“Look, I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” she continued, carefully unbuckling the belt which attached her to the stepladder. “I’ll come down, if you help me with the rest of the signs. It is a crime after all.”

With Ed’s support, she slowly backed down to the pavement. By now a group of onlookers had appeared, highly amused at this entertaining start to their gloomy winter working day.

Ed was used to drunks of all varieties, usually students, beggars, or tourists, getting up to all sorts of tricks, but sober, respectably-dressed old ladies brandishing gaffer tape, was a different matter. This had not come into his Community Police training.

“I don’t quite understand, madam.”

“Good grief, what has education come to? Look! Can’t you see the shop is called BED’S – with an apostrophe. It’s a simple plural. One bed – B-E-D; more than one bed – B-E-D-S. No apostrophe! We need to cover up all the apostrophes outside and then when the shop opens, we can go inside and alter all their signs. It’s quite simple.”

“I don’t think the shop manager would like that, madam.”

“Well, I don’t like his incorrect shop and as I am the correct one, I have the right to change it. In the meantime, you can take my name down in your notebook. It’s Amy Ziemniak. Z-I-E-M-N-I-A-K.” She paused. “Why are you on your phone?”

“It’s more than a phone, Mrs Zem… madam. I can note down all sorts on here. Perhaps you could spell your name again.”



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