For tomorrow’s writing group – it’s a surprise!

As well as leading two writing groups, I also am a member of two others. In my own writing groups we generally discuss a theme – character, location, point of view, etc and then share our writing from something I have suggested which was inspired (I hope) by what we talked about the previous get together. In my other writing groups a topic is suggested  – almost randomly, and we write to that; When we have shared our pieces, people are invited to comment – constructive criticism and encouragement only!

Tomorrow we are meeting and the topic to write about is ‘Surprise!’ I was surprised when I discovered this because I thought that over the summer we had been left to our own devices and would write whatever we fancied! I’m quite happy with this, and I will get scribbling in a minute – I was always lucky in English exams that I could be given a topic and just write while other people were scratching their heads.

With this writing group over the past months, I have written a series of connected stories, each new chapter inspired by whatever the topic we are given… I think I am going to return to that and pursue this same story. It is about a woman called Clare Mason, who unexpectedly meets someone she knew at school, someone who bullied her dreadfully. She is relieved that the woman doesn’t recognise her, but a little more than puzzled that she thinks Clare is another school-friend, Clare Cherry…

Yes, I think Clare Mason will have a surprise… that will be what I will write for tomorrow…

My other writing group also chooses a topic; we meet in a café called the Bay, and we always seem stuck for inspiration so just look around for a topic… so we have written about Bay, Wall, Time, Driftwood and after noticing a poster for Weston-super-Mare Pride festival, our topic for next Tuesday is ‘Pride’.

In my stories about Clare, at the moment called ‘The Button’ (even though there has been a TV series of the same name – I used it before the series aired!) are:

  • The Mill
  • The Wall
  • Out of the Box
  • Flight of Fancy
  • Lunch Club

Here is part of the first story in the series; Clare Mason comes across an old watermill while out on a walk. She goes to have a closer look and the owner, Darius offers to show her around. His wife arrives…

“A visitor, Jenny!” he said enthusiastically, which did seem slightly strange… perhaps they were hoping to open it to the public, perhaps they wanted people to know about it. The woman greeted Clare in a pleasant enough way.

“Don’t feel obliged to be interested just because Darius is so keen…” she said which again was slightly strange.

Clare responded that she was fascinated by watermills but she’d only stay a moment… and followed them inside through a wide doorway with a circular window above it. She would have stopped to look properly but now the couple had invited her in when no doubt they were busy with their restoration…

They’d come into a big open room, with an old work bench in the middle; perhaps walls had been taken down, perhaps  it had always been like this… seventeenth century, corn mill changed to a timber mill,  the man Darius was saying as his wife Jenny talked over him about what a big job it was, more than she had expected, she was concentrating on their living quarters upstairs,  maybe AirBnB, maybe selling up – it all came out in a rush and Darius wandered away, as if used to being talked over.

“I’m sorry,” Jenny stopped abruptly. “We’re under a lot of pressure…”

“No I’m sorry, sorry to have intruded, thank you – ” and Clare turned to go even though now she was inside she was eager to see this old place. She could hear echoey drips of water and there were strange lights playing on the ceiling from water which must be on the other side of a balustrade.

“We are hoping to have it as an AirBnB,” Jenny repeated, followed her out of the wide door.  “Can I give you my card, for when we’re up and running… we’ve got a website but it’s not functioning yet…”

Clare took the card, a photo of the old place, dappled with sunshine, its warm bricks glowing beneath the lichen-gilded roof. She turned it over, Darius and Jenny-Lee Mapp, Wolfston Mill, Easthope.

“I was at school with a girl called Jenny-Lee,” Clare remarked. “In Castair… donkeys years ago…”

“I was there too!” Jenny-Lee exclaimed “I was Jenny-Lee Harper! What did you say your name was?”

Should she lie, pretend to be someone else…

 “Clare! Oh my gosh, Clare! I wouldn’t have recognised you but now I can see it’s you! Oh my gosh!”

And Jenny-Lee flung her arms round Clare and hugged her… which in all her bitter and angry memories, which Clare, never in a million of them, would have expected. Jenny-Lee grabbed her arm and pulled her back into the old mill calling out to her husband.

“Darling, the most marvellous thing, this is my chum Clare from school – we were spotty school girls way back in Victorian times – or so it seems!”

Darius smiled but there now seemed little warmth in his brown face.

“Come and have a cup of tea and we can catch up! Clare Cherry! Who would have thought Clare Cherry would come sauntering back into my life!”

Clare was so startled she somehow lurched into a work bench sending some sort of iron tool clatter in to the floor… As she picked it up her head was spinning – how can she think I’m Clare Cherry? Clare Cherry was Jenny’s best friend – how can she not see that I’m not that Clare?!

Darius took the tool, maybe some sort of plane maybe…

“So you’re Clare Cherry, are you?” he said in a strange, almost menacing way but before either of them could say more, Jenny-Lee was back.

“I’ve found a picture of us, look!”

And there they were in their school uniform – they were sitting on the grass under the apple trees, so they must have been in the fifth year as only the upper school were allowed to sit there.

“Look Clare – there you are, and me, and there’s Angela, and Sandra, there’s Joan and Pauline and Heather – and look there’s the Button!” and Jenny-Lee burst out laughing and Clare felt her heart clench and she wanted to snatch the plane from the man’s hand and smash it into her face…

“The Button?” he asked, but he was looking at Clare.

“Oh forget her! Tea! And cake! And maybe a glass of something! Oh Clare, I’m so pleased to see you!!”

Here is a link to my other stories and novels:



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