Thursday, 11 August 2011

Why I'm painting pictures and not writing stories

This evening I was searching through some old backup discs for something and came across a story I started writing in 2003. It's terrible but it made me laugh, so I have self-indulgently decided to share it with you.

Luntell Wellingbone's Symphony

Luntell Wellingbone sat watching the rollers spin into action, contracting and moving towards him, when the idea arrived with perfect clarity. He smiled as it all fell into place – so simple, so obvious. Why had it not occurred to him before?

The best ideas always came to him in the car wash. He was glad he’d driven through all that mud yesterday; he’d have to do it more often. The last time he came here he invented the transparent rug, for those who like the look of floorboards but want the feel of a carpet. As soon as he found a suitable yarn it was bound to take off. But this was even bigger. There would be less financial gain perhaps, unless people really liked it, but that wasn’t his motivation. The feeling of accomplishment, the thrill of involvement, the overwhelming satisfaction in his creation – that would be reward enough.

On his way home he took a detour through the back roads, driving through every muddy puddle he could find, all the time desperate to tell somebody about his latest idea. The problem was that he didn’t know anyone. He had no friends, no workmates, nothing.

Before we continue, let’s explain these things. The lack of friends was hard to accept for an intelligent and likeable man such as Luntell, but he could only assume that people pre-judged him for his polka dot hair. He found it hard to blame them as it was admittedly unusual, but it wasn’t his fault. He’d always had it – naturally blond with large orange dots all over. He had tried dyeing it black, but when he did the dots just came out pink. Nowadays he didn’t try to hide it. He was proud of his appearance and everyone else would just have to fall into line.

The lack of workmates could be attributed to the fact that he didn’t have a job. After leaving school he went to the careers advisory service but they could only suggest low paid opportunities in circuses and funfairs. Luntell took it upon himself to find a suitable career and prove them wrong, but after one unsuccessful interview as a sales assistant at a jeweller’s he made a discovery that removed the need for paid employment. He was refilling his wallet at a cash machine one morning when he checked his balance and found more money than he was expecting. He reported it to the bank who said they’d look into it but ever since, on the last Tuesday of every month, the sum of two thousand pounds had been credited to his account. It was enough for Luntell to live on with some degree of luxury, and the anxious months of fear that he’d be caught out had since subsided into casual acceptance of his good fortune. It did of course leave him with a lot of spare time, but that would now be very useful for putting his new idea into action.

The one person he spent any time with was his mother, with whom he lived. However, conversation with her was limited on account of her deafness. She also had an unfortunate allergy to all forms of hearing aid and so Luntell had a stack of comment cards at the ready. The collection had grown to be quite considerable over the years and had to be arranged for easy access. At the front of the pile were the frequently used ones, such as ‘Yes’, ‘No’, and ‘How are you?’ while at the back were the ones he’d only ever used once, like ‘I saw a man tap dancing on the bonnet of our neighbour’s Ford Mondeo this morning’. He acknowledged that he was unlikely to need these cards again, but he didn’t like to throw them out just in case. His mother, not being the talkative type, had only a handful of cards, of which the most frequently used was ‘Oh’. In truth her eyesight wasn’t what it once was and most of the time she couldn’t read what he was saying to her anyway.

Luntell pulled the car over on a grass verge in front of a small detached house just before the track rejoined the main road. He had to tell somebody, it couldn’t wait until he got home. He closed the small iron gate behind him, walked up to the front door and pressed the bell. After a few seconds the door opened slightly and a small girl’s face peered around.

‘Hello little girl. Aren’t you pretty? Are you on your own?’ Footsteps thundered along the hallway and the door swung open. It was a woman holding a bag of frozen chips.

‘Listen you fucking sicko, I don’t know who you are but you’d better get the hell away from my daughter or I’m calling the police. Got it?’ She raised the bag over her head.

‘No, I’m only here to tell you something. Don’t be upset. It’s just that I’ve decided to write a symphony.’

‘I mean it! Get away from here!’ Luntell took two steps backwards, confused.

‘Mummy, why has that man got funny hair?’

‘Megan, get inside! Now!’ Luntell held out his palms to show he meant no harm.

‘A symphony. That’s all I wanted to say.’ The woman threw the bag and it hit him on the shoulder.

‘Get away!’ she screamed again. He turned and walked briskly back down the path, through the gate and back into his car. He saw the woman in his rear view mirror as he drove off, trying to make note of his number plate. What if she told the police? They might make him pay for the bag of chips. Perhaps he should have waited until he had got home, allowed his mother to be the first to know.

When he got there he was glad he hadn’t waited. His mother was fast asleep in her chair, her ‘Zzzz’ card lying on her lap. Luntell went into the kitchen to fix himself a celery and mustard sandwich, his favourite. Not only was it tasty but also convenient because if he was ever short of time, a stick of celery could be placed in a finger roll with little or no cutting required. Now was such a time as he hurriedly prepared the snack so that he could make a start on his symphony upstairs.

Up in his room he cleared a space on his desk and opened up a pad of plain paper. He took a bite of the roll and picked up an HB pencil. He sharpened the pencil. He emptied the sharpener in the waste paper basket by his feet. He took another bite of the roll. He opened the window and then took a further bite of the roll. He brushed some crumbs off the pad, closed the window because it was draughty, then finished the roll. Some three hours later he gazed down at the blank paper and decided that it was best to take a break. He turned the pad ninety degrees and wrote in large letters I’M WRITING A SYMPHONY!, then tore it off and went downstairs.

His mother was awake now and he held the piece of paper up to her. She in turn held up her ‘Oh’ card, farted, and took a sip of her celery juice. Mrs Wellingbone farted a lot, often loudly, but these things appear to be of no consequence to a deaf person. Luntell loped into the kitchen and sat at the table. It occurred to him that his lack of normal conversation was possibly affecting his creative powers. Maybe if he found someone to talk to, relate to, spend time with – maybe then the symphony would be easier to write. His last creative project had been less problematic. Though only a haiku, it had been written in little over an hour and it was surely no coincidence that back then he had Bubbins the cat for company. How he missed Bubbins. They always made time for each other at the end of the day to swap stories and jokes; it was what Luntell looked forward to most. He still regretted the time when he went to the supermarket for some celery and asked his mother to feed the cat while he was away. His mother had apparently misunderstood his instructions and fed Bubbins to next door’s Rottweiler.

It was time to do something about his lack of contact with the outside world, for the sake of his self and for the sake of his symphony. Tomorrow he would go out and try to meet people.


Luntell had never been to the local community hall before but it was always in use. Its name would appear on posters for WI markets, blood doning sessions, jumble sales and just about anything of mild interest to well meaning citizens. If it were human it would be quite the celebrity but right now, as bricks and mortar on this muggy Sunday evening, it was the venue for the unambiguously named Making Friends Club. The small advert in the local paper had said newcomers welcome and it seemed like a good place for Luntell to start, well, making friends.

It was three minutes past the advertised starting time and the handful of people who had turned up were milling around ignoring each other. Although not wishing to pre-judge, Luntell did find himself wondering how many of these lost souls were likely to become lasting companions. The middle-aged man with dandruff who was scraping the inside of his nostrils with his little finger and wiping it on his belly looked like the pick of the bunch. The rest were rather less animated, like they were just looking for someone to leave all their pressed flower collections to when they became too bored to carry on living. The door then swung open, banging loudly against the wall. Through a shaft of sunlight came a plump but well groomed woman whose perfumed scent, as she marched through the group, was one classification away from chemical warfare. There was little doubt that this was the event organiser.

‘Oh smashing,’ she said, looking around. ‘Lots of new faces.’ The corners of her mouth drooped slightly as she continued surveying her subjects. ‘Are any of you here from last week? Well never mind, we can start afresh.’ She pulled up a chair and invited everyone to join her in a circle. ‘My name’s Maureen Chapman and I’d like to welcome you to the Making Friends Club. I’m so glad to be able to offer this opportunity of meeting new people because it’s so important.’ Her emphasis was so heavy that she pursed her lips and looked around for a moment as if to recover. ‘I used to be a lonely person. After I lost my husband I used to sit in front of the television night after night, not wanting to face the world.’ She took another long, surveying pause and Luntell thought perhaps he ought to say something.

‘Did he ever turn up?’ Maureen shook her head slightly in confusion.


‘Your husband. You said you lost him. Did he turn up again?’

‘No dear,’ she managed through a professional smile. ‘He died.’

‘Oh goodness!’ said Luntell. ‘Double whammy! I’m sorry.’

‘Anyway, as I was saying. I felt as though I was all alone in the world, as if I didn’t belong. Then one day I woke up and I said to myself Maureen, you’ve got to snap out of this. The world won’t come to you, you’ve got to go out there and find it. And do you know what I found?’ Expressionless faces met her latest sweep of the room and she said her next words softly in fragments while leaning forward. It’s not. As hard. As you think.’ She looked down at her clipboard and Luntell wondered if she was expecting applause, but just as he was about to clap she spoke again. ‘Now, I’d like you to work around the circle and introduce yourselves, giving a little bit of background on why you’ve come to be here this evening. Shall we start with you?’ She gently touched the arm of the woman on her left.

We’re not going to hear what they all had to say because that would mislead you into thinking they have some bigger part to play in the story. The truth is they’re unimportant because Luntell won’t be coming back next week. He hasn’t quite decided that yet, but he will very soon. The only significance this meeting has is that in a second, the refreshments will arrive courtesy of the café down the road.

‘Ah!’ said Maureen as a girl entered carrying a tray of hot drinks in polystyrene cups with lids. ‘The coffees are here.’ Luntell turned around – he hadn’t heard her come in – and by the time the girl had collected her payment he was already planning the wedding. She was perfect in the way that celebrities were perfect; he knew nothing about her but all that he could see became the very definition of his ideal woman. She was slim, petite, had brunette hair and a smile that could melt an iceberg. After she had left, Maureen turned to Luntell and said ‘Okay, your turn.’ He placed his palms on his knees and sat up straight.

‘My name is Luntell Wellingbone, I’m 24 years old and I’m writing a symphony. I don’t want to be friends with any of you and as soon as I’ve finished my coffee I’m leaving.’


The girl’s name was Sarah. She had just completed the short walk back to the café and stood with her hands on hips as she looked around the near empty shop.

‘How was the freakshow?’ asked Nina, her colleague.

‘Even worse than last week. There was a bloke there with spotty hair.’

‘Spotty hair?’ Nina repeated, checking she’d heard correctly.

‘Yeah. His hair had coloured spots in it.’

‘Right. I always said you’d meet your ideal man working here.’ Sarah took off her apron and looked at the clock.

‘Don’t suppose I can knock off early tonight? I’m whacked and this place is dead.’ Nina shrugged.

‘Oh, go on then. You on tomorrow?’

‘No. Tuesday.’

‘Okay. See you then.’ Nina wiped down the counter for the umpteenth time for something to do. The solitary customer stood up and left, smiling faintly at her as he went. Perhaps she’d give it five minutes then close early. That time had almost expired when the door opened and Luntell walked in. He took a quick look around and then faced Nina.

‘Is the girl here who just served coffee at the Making Friends Club?’

‘Oh my God. It’s you. You know for a stalker you’re not very discreet.’


‘Well you don’t know her, do you? She told me about you. She thinks you’re a freak, and frankly I think that’s being charitable. Is that a wig?’

‘She spoke about me?’

‘Woah there, don’t get any ideas. Just go back to your screw-up buddies and leave her alone. Her boyfriend is twice your size and isn’t famed for his reasoning. Hear what I’m saying?’

‘Mmm. So what’s her name?’

‘I think you should leave now.’

‘No, I think I’ll have a celery and mustard on wholemeal please.’

‘I’m now closing up.’

‘Oh. That’s a pity.’

‘Not from here it isn’t.’ Luntell turned to leave but then paused, Columbo style, as he reached for the door handle.

‘She doesn’t have any cats I suppose?’

‘Look, if you don’t leave now I’m calling the police.’

‘Cats don’t agree with me,’ he said as the door closed behind him.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The perils of singledom #1

Following my previous post, I'd like to say that this engaging action shot is me preparing the foundation for an elaborate mural. That, however, would be untrue. In fact this is me doing some groundwork to complement my latest unnecessary purchase - an HD projector! (Note: you need to be careful when decorating. See how I've carelessly dropped some flesh coloured paint on top of my head. Goodness knows where that came from.)

Here's the beast, next to my measly 46 inch TV. Pah! The projected image size is 129 inches! That's just shy of 11 feet!

Here's a completely random screenshot as an example. (A lot of football fans subscribe to the absurd theory that league tables are meaningless until about a dozen games into the season. Sometimes you just have to chuckle at these fools.)

So yes, out of nowhere I felt compelled to create a cinema in my lounge and this post clearly has no purpose beyond showing off about it. I'm basically a total tosspot. I think it's just what happens to mid-thirties bachelors - resisting it could lead to all sorts of problems so you have to accede. Shortly after purchasing the projector I found out that the Star Wars saga is coming out on Blu-ray next month. See what I mean? It's like nature's delicate, unimpeachable plan.

At some point I will get around to creating some of that artwork I promised. Just one more DVD, then I'll get right on it.