Borstal – short story

The first creative writing assignment I did as an OU student


Looking back my shift at the centre started as a night like any other. I-wing stands for isolation wing; not very original but at least you know what you’re getting. I’d been here ten years and thought I’d seen everything. This is where they put the worst of the young offenders; junkies, the Hep-C’s and AIDS kids and the just plain violent ones.

Each screw gets given two cells. There are usually five or six suicide attempts every week. On top of them you’ve got the ones that just like causing trouble. I saw Tommo heading to the showers with a kid

“Little shit has puked all up the walls” he said. “Two hours ago; jizz, now shit. Thinks he’s entertaining.”

“Gonna be puke again next” the kid smirked. “I just like to watch you clean up mate.”

“You’ll be laughing the other side of your face when you’ve spent the night in the bare cell, concrete bed and a hole to piss in. Happy Christmas kid, you’re gonna freeze.”

Yeah, I though, just another normal shift. That night my two cells were full. In I7 was Wee Billy, five feet two inches of adrenaline. When he wasn’t high on amphetamines he was high on E-numbers. He’s been in and out of the system for years, preferring to be off his face on drugs or locked up with us rather than be at home with his old man knocking ten bells out of him every night. Funny little shit, I’d quite like him if only he didn’t finance his drug habit by beating and robbing old ladies. He should be careful though. The next time he gets himself locked up he’s in with the adults. I checked through the slot and he was fast asleep, jittering and shaking as the drugs left his system again.

Then came I8. I could cope with the junkies and the screamers but this kid gave me the creeps just sitting there so quietly never making a sound. Billy hid from his parents through drugs, this kid…he chose to slit their throats. The warden didn’t know what to do with him. They put him in a cell, he tried to kill his roomie; let him into the canteen he shafted someone with a fork….Oh yeah this one scared the hell out of me. And as the night went on I was right to be very scared indeed….


Wedding Days – short

Another little story for you 🙂

‘First day of autumn ladies. I think we should get out the sunburnt orange dresses’

That’s Millie Molloy, owner of Molloy’s Weddings and my boss. If mannequins can have bosses that is. I don’t have a name like Mille and her two assistants I’m just me. A mannequin. I can think and see but little else. I’ve worked in a few stores over the years but this one is my favourite. I love the dresses I get to wear. I have lots of different styles but also such beautiful colours like the dress I’ve just been given; the tulle and satin the colour of orange leaves just fallen from trees.

The Bride is here with her gaggle of friends. This is their fourth fitting so far. I believe the term is ‘bridezilla’ but it seems harsh. She seems very stressed, everything must be perfect and just so and the same goes for her bridesmaids. The dresses must be the same length and same style. There were tears when one girl needed wide straps adding to her beautiful dress to hold up her ample bosom. The physical appearance seems to be uppermost on all these girls’ minds. I hear them talk of dieting and wanting to be in smaller sizes than they are. Is this what it’s like to be a real woman? The need to always be perfect?

Oh The Bride has Her with her today. Her is a bridesmaid but she comes in separately sometimes to look at the wedding dresses. I hear her talking to Millie about her own dream wedding and the dress she would have if only He would ask her. She has such sad eyes. I’ve seen them both, Her and Him as I stand in the shop window; me looking out and seeing everything, Her looking in and seeing only her distant dreams and Him looking like he wishes to be anywhere else except where he is. The unasked question is obvious to everyone and even The Bride puts aside her to-do lists to offer sympathy now and again.

Last week she tried on the dresses again. Her favourite is a 1940’s style with lots of fringing with no back and covered in beads and embellishments. She looked like a beautiful dancer missing her dance partner. She’s hinted that she may buy it anyway as it’s a timeless piece that can be worn any year but I think maybe not for any man. Is this again a human thing? To buy something that may never be worn may never even be seen. Hidden away somewhere along with the remnants of a broken heart.

Also in the group is the Sister: a lady who has no partner, no soul mate. I see Sister all the time; she walks past once a week. There is a hospital, homeless shelter and a court room nearby so maybe she goes past on her way to work. The Sister has hopeful eyes though rather than sad ones. I know from the wedding gossip that she is on her own but hopes one day to marry again, that her life partner is out there. When she stops by each week I can see her looking at the dresses through the window, mentally working out which one would suit her, which one would make her look old and trying to decide on the one that would showcase her timeless beauty the best. She seems to like the straighter sheath dresses that fall elegantly straight rather than the full bodice and lace of some of the dresses. Not for her the giant puffball and hooped underskirts. Will she ever meet her One? It’s not a concept I understand.

The assistants will talk to me while they change my clothes but I can’t call them friends. I wonder what they would do if I ever spoke back to them. Or the ladies as they remark on my dresses as they feel the lace, the beads, the satin.

‘That’s it. Everything is spot on. I can’t wait for next week’ trills The Bride. And then they are gone in a sweep of perfume and laughter. The Bride, finally finding the perfection she desires, Her; the sister wondering if the wedding will finally prompt Him into asking the Question she so desperately craves and Sister, so happy for her sibling but wondering when her own Knight in shining armour will appear. This is love; this friendship is what makes the world go around. If I were human this is all the love I would ask for.


The restaurant at the end of your Life

So it’s been a while since I last wrote any blog so I thought while I put together some pieces about the things I’ve been doing lately I’d share some small pieces of creative writing that I’ve done over the course of my recent module.

The brief gven on this one was to write about a meal. This is my attempt 🙂

Mark’s Diner

Today’s the day I get to visit Mark’s diner. I’ve been marking the days for the last two weeks. Well it’s not often you know exactly when you’re gonna die is it? I walk with Pastor Jim; the corridors eerily quiet. The Screws are peering around the corners looking for signs of despair but it’s not gonna happen. The Pastor is sweating more than I am.

I’m infamous. The first man to be put to death in England in fifty-one years after the government brought back capital punishment in an effort to win the election. We are shown into a small room barely big enough to fit the table and two chairs. Some joker has placed a red gingham tablecloth on it. Mark brings my starter: Prawn Cocktail. Big pink slimy looking things covered in sauce. Very 70’s but I’ve always loved it. All that’s missing is a kipper tie and some chord flares

Next up I ordered beef and ale stew just like my mama used to make. Half a bottle of ale for the pot and half for my mama. It has thick brown liquid not quite thick enough to stand your spoon in but close, with big lumps of the finest beef. Well this one does. Mama used to make do with whatever scraps were left from the butchers at the end of the day. Oh crusty bread with lashings of real butter. Make it an inch thick Mark, yes please.

Just look at that dessert. Piping hot waffles, firm not soft banana, vanilla ice-cream starting to melt from the heat of the waffles and covered in lashings of toffee sauce. Oh my arteries! I can feel them closing as I near the end. I think I’m going to die a happy man.

Poetry – reading and creating

Four months ago I wrote a post about starting my 4th Open University degree course; this one in Creative Writing. It’s going well so far. The first section was about general writing and around March time I’ll learn about life writing. The next 8 weeks though I have poetry and I’m not really looking forward to it.

I remember when I was little I had a few poetry books- my favourites were When I am 6 by AA Milne and a book by Shel Silverstein. Childish and nonsense poems and yet more than 30 years on these are still the only poems that stand out to me. I’ve studied poetry throughout school and then again several times over the last few years on this course. I’ve read and studied sonnets, learned about the horrors of war from Wilfred Owen and escapism from racism in early 20th century  America from Langston Hughes. I’ve read (and tried not to fall asleep – sorry) about the majesty and breathtaking scenery of the Romantic greats. And still my favourite poem is about a man who has forgotten to wear his pants.

I’ve tried to write a few poems and so far have managed a couple about school. One could be classed as escaping the uniformity of teenage girls and the way society insists on a ‘perfect’ image for our youngsters. Mostly though it was just because I liked her shoes.

I have a half finished poem about a witch trying to cast a spell which will enable her daughter to find the perfect man. It’s still though quite sing-song-y and a bit innocent. Funny how my main writing often covers traumatic real life events, mental health problems and more yet ask me to write you a poem and all I want to do is make you laugh.

I have to do a poetry assignment in February – either one long 40 line poem or several smaller ones that add up to 40 lines and my thoughts and inspiration for it so far centres around the circus. Again it seems like I may be trapped in an 8 year olds body where rhyme is concerned. I only hope my tutor isn’t looking for the new Wordsworth…