Tag Archives: stories

Writing Exercise… and cars!

#blogclub writing warm up

I ran Blog Club in London today with an exercise from the most awesome Lynda Barry. If you want to play too, here’s her blog post with instructions and words from the fine woman herself. I’ve done it with groups a few times and it’s really good warm up for getting into the writing space and, in my experience, getting you back into your body, memory, imagination rather than the dry analytic space I often find myself in when sitting down to blog.

Now I found myself with the word “car”. Despite never having owned a car myself, never having taken a driving test, but getting the basics bashed into me at the age of 17 and then settling for passengerhood for the next 35 years, I still have lots of stories about cars and driving in me.

The time my father brought home a new “jelly-mould” Ford Sierra; then my mother learning to drive in her little purple Mini; the time I first sat in the driving seat for real and set off with my first horrible driving instructor; the boot of our old Vauxhall that used to fly open randomly; the time I was waiting for a lift by the side of the M5 after drinking two bottles of Martini the night before and throwing up behind the crash barrier; me getting another driving lesson after I’d moved to London, the horrors of the Chelsea Embankment and the terror of crossing Albert Bridge; the time when we were driving through the Lickeys and a stone flew up and shattered the windscreen; the time the steering went on the Volvo and my first wife managed to get us over onto the hard shoulder safely; the time she wrote off the lovely Renault 16; my son at the age of five or so, in the back of the car, waking up after a long drive to see my mother and, when her face appeared at the window he shouted “Fucking Hell! It’s Granny!”

I didn’t get to write any of these today but they’re all incredibly rich and it’s astonishing that they’re all in me, just a few moments away from a random word drawn out of a bag.

[bds] Bromsgrove’s just the beginning. Thanks @MMaryMcKenna!

I’m working on a digitised archive for Bromsgrove (last 48 hrs of crowdfunding) first because it’s a space and time that I have some knowledge of, I know the geography, I know some of the people who were there, I have stories of my own to tell.

But as much value as I think is there (and I think there’s loads) I’m just as interested in this as a learning project that can be replicated in other places.  One of the attractions of Bromsgrove is that there’s very little notable about it.  Until you start to dig…  It’s nowhere special (for that value of special that we’ve developed during the last 100 years) but everywhere is special, everywhere has interesting stories to tell, it’s just more obvious to me what they are for this case.

So what about applying it in more conventionally “interesting” places? One of the most idea-sparking conversations I’ve had about possible next steps (always remembering that we haven’t done the first one yet!) came up yesterday at #altukgc13.  I was talking about the importance of standing up for our own home-made media to tell a fuller story than mass media can and Mary McKenna pointed out that while the BBC has loads of archive material about Northern Ireland in the 1970s it’s completely dominated by stuff about the Troubles.  And this might be a really neat way of telling more rounded stories about life beyond the ethno-political struggles and violence.

Oh yes.  I like that a lot.  We’ll do that.