Valentine Day’s Writers’ Group Meeting

Steve came in shortly after me and I let the pink champagne cork ease itself out and bang against the ceiling of Langton’s shop where the group meet on the second Tuesday of the month. Steve celebrates the day on the next day, that of his anniversary. John Elliott joined us and I regaled them with police barging into my flat to carry John off and everybody’s trying to keep Diana from going to prison except Diana who enjoys the attention.

John Elliott follows the ranking of his book on Amazon. It started at about three hundred thousandth, sank to millionth, rose to fifty-seventh thousand – “Somebody must’ve bought a book,” John said – before falling back to the three hundreth. But nothing by Chomu was doing any better, he consoled himself. My short story, coming out in the anthology, got a mention, an appropriate place to put the link to the page advertising it:

I read out John’s Olympian Ode from prison before Kevin arrived late, as usual, with a pink sparkling wine he fridged. I then read out that part of the unconscious conversation between Johnny and Mum on sex, which renders truth especially on sex impossible, and what can be done to minimise this calamitous state of human affairs. Kevin and John Elliott had nothing to say about it. Steve was infinitely more appreciative, something to do with was its being sequential to previous bits and he was getting the hang of it.

John Elliott grabbed next turn, for want of a female present asking Steve to read his contribution from a book he’s nearly finished about a German who chooses East Germany while his wife flees west. It was a scene between this ideologue who spoke in party approved lingo to an old woman curious why he should stay in the east and took offence at the inference she smelt like a cat. John, a communist, probably has a lot invested in this book likely worse than the others. I exonerated Steve’s reading of it; the prose itself was flat. Kevin appreciated it with one or two minor criticisms, none of which registered. “I was practising my facial gestures,” I explained when Kevin queried what I was doing. I was glad that was all I did because John remembered my liking his writing to embroidery. Embroidery can be art.

Steve’s reading was of a scene between his unmarried, childless hero entertaining a sister who hates him and her brood in the parental home he’s inherited. By this time I was onto Kevin’s sparkling and becoming anaesthetised so I don’t remember too much except Steve had just that day written what he was trying out on us. Kevin was going to ask, stopped himself asking until I encouraged him to finish what he’d started: was it autobiographical. It wasn’t, but if the brother was persisting with being working class would he have headed himself for chardonnay on seeing his sister, with her pretensions to middle classness, off? A fair point. There wasn’t enough contrast between the two characters since the hero shared in the pretentiousness.

Both Steve and Kevin are doing courses on writing, Steve’s a gift costing by Kevin’s reckoning £1500, while Kevin’s is with City Lit. Kevin’s rollicking read from the third draft of his novel about Ireland in the Second World War has his heroine come out of sedation affecting a right bossy persona which I thought she’d picked up from an English lover but no, she was the bastard daughter of the lord of the Irish manor who couldn’t acknowledge her. We sought words to describe Kevin’s style. Orotund, John thought, rodomontade, I suggested but settling for impasto ie laid on with a trowel, thus explaining why the characterisations didn’t much matter though Kevin wanted sympathy for his heroine. Maybe.

I’d read Hitler’s Empire whose only fault was not to mention along with gypsies and Jews the extermination of homosexuals. Kevin was deploring British war crimes against Germany. “Don’t give me that sentimental twaddle. It was war. They deserved everything they got,” including rapine Russians.

As we were readying to leave after three hours and by this time three bottles, Steve’s red the third, John asked about a book of mine if not by its name. I said apparently it was being held up over a difficulty printing the footnotes, which no one believed plausible.


About johnbrucecairns

I'm a retired history teacher who's written for most of his life with a book readied for publication.
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