Live, loud and local

We’re often told to write what we know, but someone advised me to write what I was passionate about.   Actually that nails it; I think it worked.

Here’s a thing I wrote, nearly a year and half ago.  It was published by Eevee Life but the link has gone, but here are the words anyway.

So much has flowed from this one piece of writing.


Alexander’s Live, Chester
Live, loud and local.

Music is where our dreams go to refuel, hang out, catch up. If your fantasies are looking flabby then music makes them techni-colour, supersized and over the limit. It’s a truth that gets me out of bed in a morning; down the stairs to power up the radio.

But it’s the worst day of the week. You’ve got to work, the cat’s been sick, and it’s raining. The news is on selling fables of distant doom and politics, gigs and festivals you’ll never get to. Life may be out there; but you’re stuck here. Local. Going nowhere.

Take a deep breath. You’re wrong. Truth is that local is the best place. Ever. Because it’s got you in it and you’re going right up to that stage.

Being local means being close; in on the action. Local venues take you right to it, not isolated, but conveniently at the centre of things. Alexander’s Live, Rufus Court, Chester. This is local at its finest, an awesome place, early or late, whatever the weather.

The courtyard holds holiday sun and warms your morning coffee. Inside, even before a gig, the place is vibrant and intimate, gathered around bar and stage.

But the best bit. Music. Live music to reach into you, to make those dreams move, to fuel you to the next time; at once fabulous and diverse.

And comedy, the joke that is life and all those lies within. And if you need to get closer, louder? There are open mic nights for those with a burning desire to get on the other side of the microphone.

In this place: each band that ever played, all the friends that met, anyone whoever laughed or danced; they all left a little magic behind. Go and make it yours, dip into it and add to it for next time.

Go to:

Rebecca Sowray @RedStar240

Published 23rd April 2013


Flash – “Games”


Finishing the river stage and finally even my hands are tired.  Reflected sun from the plain concrete stands dazzles me and the tiny wooden pontoon lurches.  Water clothes me but my heart cramps, hot now, the sweats beginning.  Sensations define my surface.  I know I am a relic.

Others struggle towards me, through the tide.  I am comfortably alone and should feel this win.

Some of the small crowd are far too loud.  My family, my lover.  It is just as well that they come with numbers decreasing as they are.  They dominate the video screens, quaintly diverse; sight pieces, technolobes and even an antiquary.

The electronic banner accuses.  All results provisional.

The official approaches me and then holds still.  My technology conforms, they know this.  A single movement; a step forward and her hand stops before shoulder.  My outward breath moves me away, a little. Touching my skin only lightly she rolls back the unitard material.  Exposed there is the small ageless tattoo, overlapping, centred; blue, white, red.

By choice I stand alone and watch the others as they win.

Two pence, return.

Memory is never accurate and my dreams are just an approximation of what has passed.  This is a dream

Two pence, return.

The harsh, synthetic fibres in the seat resist my weight.  Upstairs, at the front.  I am absorbed in the usual distraction, looking down through the driver’s periscope. It is an empty vision.  There is a second frame to the glass, vague fingerprints in colourless chewed gum pressed all around.  Yellow bus tickets stick there like feathers, each one showing the last journey to Schofield Street.

Nearly there now; that’s where I am headed.  Tomato reds, cocoa browns and citrus oranges from the seat confuse appetite and vision.  My blue shorts, cut from trousers, bunch; their hand sewn hems lumpy.

The deep, repetitive bleep of the level crossing flashes through my head and pulls my sight up.  The flimsy barrier lifts. A grimy diesel hauls a long coal train into the power station siding.  There is a rough ride then, across the rails into the long rise and over the new bridge.  Crash barrier aluminium shines with the crystalline patterns of its cooling extrusion.  I can smell the iron bolts that hold it safe.  But the graceful arch of the bridge falls away steeply.  Water laps at the tarmac as the road submerges.  A line of detritus marks the change in worlds.

The red sides of the bus magnify as we enter the lens of the canal.  The image is bulbous and clear. We do not distort the surface as it takes us back.  Our path is unhindered, recently dredged.  A single, phantom pushchair is animated by our current. The coal dust smells hard in the water, there is the sherbet tang of asbestos.  Guppies, mostly orange, occasionally fancy, crowd this strange creature that has joined them in the over warm emulsion.

I think that this is a shorter way.  The road travels past the pacified Castle Hill Park, the shops, the other school and the main road on up to the Grammar.  Here the landmarks surprise me.  The old wool mill that now houses a powder coating factory.  Vast doors stand open showing the bright, white light of women welders. Sinister grey steam rises thick over two bridges.  Two railways; this place only ever hinted at offering more than out and back.

The bus stop is neglected; concrete crumbling with weather.  The everyday is grey as we move free; water drains away.  As I walk cold marks our changing fortunes.  Goose bumps chafe against my legs.

A familiar door, its glass of blue sea and yellow sun, stands open.  The brass mouth of the carpet well gawps.  My eyes fill now with water, like that in the canal, but this carries a solution of heart stopping salt.  I wipe my nose and tears with the back of my hand.  Cheap, dysfunctional clothing has no pockets.  I am not putting a hanky in my knickers.

I leap over the welcome mat. The walls are heavy with frames, imagery of things held close or excluded. Birds: birds bring bad luck indoors. Butterflies carefully preserved and colours failing.  Daffodils dried in an attic. The stairs rise, each step grows deeper, the dust thickening at the edges as I climb moving up and towards.

The direction changes and I accelerate.  There is space here in the turn for a castle: an imagined court.  This fortress I have defended.

The hall now makes an uneven pathway.  The leaves in the carpet pull free, form a noisy autumn floor.  On the landing doors stand open, vulgar and anxious.  My parents’ room holds fears that I do not need. I am old enough to have my own.  Four doors suggest choice.  I take the only option.

It is my place.  But there is no space here for me.  The problem is obvious and simple.  These things are well made and well conceived; forged not factoried.  Hands that worked; pink and caring; calloused and considering. Never touched by metallic, unhoping and unthinking. Shortage and waiting.

Bear worn with care.  Doll often dressed.  The bed, narrow and constraining, soft with years of use. A faded butterfly from the hall attacks the bare lamp.  Brittle wallpaper carries simple yellow flowers and brown dot bamboo.

Lost heat describes patterns against the chimney back.  Soot bubble ants climb upwards, not yet dislodged by winter wind and rain.  Around the fire there is white gloss paint; modern luxury on cold cast iron.  Tiles make an exotic rendering of a familiar rose.

On the bed sheets are furry and bobbled; wrapped in a distorted cellular blanket.  By the bed a book of poems; care worn but new.  I start with the first one.        The words are clear and unreadable.  I know I must understand but I cannot make any sense of them.

I can remember only that there was a bird.

Happy Valentine’s Day; A Seduction

“My days would no longer feel like a video game that resets to zero every time I wake up, and then begs for coins.”

Douglas Coupland’s novel – ‘Generation A’

The book begins with an ending; a tsunami.  This is a story rooted in the chaos of survival.  A story teller who leads us so deeply into his world that we are hard pressed to say where the fictions lie.

I’m torn by about the end of the first page for I know that this is a keeper.  How fast can I read it? Should I ration it?

Weirdly it’s appropriate that my copy is a library book.  Douglas Coupland has much to say about a life lived, shared in public, with friends, bound to the earth.

There are references to sliced bread, boxcars, the fame thing and neuro-masturbation. He places us firmly in his landscape. The details are light, sparing and precise.

He gathers five from our globe to tell their stories, as they tell us their own.  Characters as outrageous as any of our friends, at once both ordinary and extraordinary. He manages a careful invention of controlled behaviours, harsh reflections of our continued failure to look outwards.

Yet you can still feel the optimism as he runs in the dark, anticipating and documenting the apocalypse of our times.  A tomorrow so strange and familiar at the same time.

It deals with the temptation of exit or avoidance. The illusion of choice in space exploration and Martian colonisation raised, and dashed, as a ridiculous fiction.  The weight of time upon us; anxiety as to the future.

There’s detail, like shared memory, talk of meals prepared and relished.  This joy is then subverted as a mirror to the nature of consumption.

Our obsessions with identity and self-knowledge in an over documented age he handles gently, with good humour.  Reminding us of our independence of thought he takes us into isolation.  His science is careful, unobtrusive.

Here is a story that resonates like a song.  A seduction for this day and this place. You don’t entirely realise what is being done to you or where you are being taken; only that you are willing.

@Scott2006Rob – the responsibility!

Your twitter question made me smile.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking lately about the connection between music choices and book choices.  Lots of lovely geeky lists to be had so I’ll do my best. Plus I really appreciate your twitter music recommendations so this really is a pleasure returned 🙂

My own reading tastes run from SF to anything with a hero I can really associate with.  So crime fiction is a bit outside my usual but something I do read.

Some of what follows is quite old, so you may already have read:-

1. Martin Cruz Smith – Gorky Park

2. Ben Elton – The First Casualty

3. Christopher Hudson – The Killing Fields

4. Nevil Shute – Round the Bend

5. Yann Martel – Life of Pi

6. Paul Torday – Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

7. Douglas Adams – Hitchikers Guide

8. Iain M Banks – Matter

9. Kevin MacNeil -The Stornoway Way (1st read this listenting to R.E.M.’s Dead Letter Office – now inseperable)

10.Khaled Hosseini – The Kite Runner

11. Jeff Noon – Automated Alice

12. Stephen King is always worth a look?

No idea what of this little lot is on Kindle.  Let me know what you think, if you do read any of it, I’d be interested.

Big hello to @lancswitch3



The Next Big Thing

On 19th December one of my writing heroes tagged me in her own blog. This made a “blog tag” – a self-sustaining conversation about the novels we are each working on; a chain letter for the social media generation.

So I read Shahla Haque’s interview about “VamPR”, eagerly:-

and with great pleasure, for it created all the tingly, magical excitement I find when reading the first page of a good book.

I name Shahla a hero along with all my Moniack Mhor and Sir John Deane colleagues and tutors.

This is an opportunity to catch my breath and to expose my writing to a few more friends and acquaintances.  My first draft sits by me, at my desk, waiting for 7th January when I shall take it out.  Out of the house, out of its folder, out of my head and begin the process of redrafting.

I am looking forward to making it real.  My plan is to have a reader’s draft complete by the end of March.

1.         What is the working title of your book?

The working title is “Treason”.  It rests lightly on this quote:-

Treason doth never prosper, what’s the reason?
For if it prosper none dare call it treason

– Ovid

How far will you go to defend what you believe in?  And when you’ve finished, lost or won, who are you?  What have you sacrificed or gained?

The stakes are high.  Our awareness of violence seems higher than ever.  The state and its machinery are more highly regulated, more closely defined than they have ever been.

2.         Where did the idea come from for the book?

It is the story of one woman: a hero. Our world is the world that she changes.  It is also her journey into what frightens her.

She and I have crossed paths in our lives many times.  There are things that we share although she is not me: our training in law, a love of Scotland and a certain defiance of convention.

I admire her and she scares me a little.  I say this because I know that if it came to it I would follow her.  She would think me a coward.

3.         What genre does your book fall under?

I’m not one for labels very much; I don’t think that they are overly helpful.  But if I must – it’s science fiction; though not in a ray guns and techno babble way.  It inhabits our reality though you might be surprised at some of the things that change over the next year or so.

We are human; my novel is about taking responsibility for our liberties.

4.         What actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie rendition?

I’m a writer, reader, music fan and part time petrol head.  I’m also mother to two small children – I see small screen kids TV much more often than anything designed for the big screen.

So my knowledge in this area is patchy and ancient.  My female lead remains uncast.  I keep looking.  Laurence Fox and Martin Freeman would make it onto any wish list together with a thirty something version of Rutger Hauer.

5.         What is the one sentence (or two) synopsis of your book?

Our humanity, our creativity and desire to be free, are things not easily suppressed.

6.         Is your book represented by an agency?

Yes – in my wilder, more futuristic fantasies. Along with where I’d hold a launch party, who I’d invite and who might write the music to the film.

And the best fantasy of all: holding a proper, paper, copy of my book.

7.         How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m a planner.  I write lists about lists.  Answering a list of questions like this is a prison I relish whilst still desiring to be free.  I’ve been planning my novel, on and off, for two years.

I’ve had much fine writing advice; there are many people whose names I murmur like prayers on occasion.  In the end the first draft took about 10 weeks, because someone pointed out that the only person stopping me was me.

8.         What other books would you compare this to within your genre?

I’d like to compare it with any science fiction work that you tend not to think of as being genre SF.  So two extremes then: George Orwell’s “1984” and Douglas Adams “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.

Then I’m going to step outside the question to think about style and form and compare the writing in “Treason” to that in Edmund White’s “Jack Holmes and his Friend”

9.         Who or what inspired you to write this book?

It’s a long held ambition so probably everyone I ever met has a hand in it, somewhere.

But I have three unfulfilled ideals, and this seemed the easiest.

(To walk on the moon, to write a novel, to swim in the dark)

10.       What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

“The walls were patterned with life.  Feral pigeons sought refuge here from the hands that fed them and drove them out.  Late at night she had seen rats move up from the canal.  They sought out remains from the days’ invading tourists, perhaps pigeon eggs too.  Waste and decay carpeted the ground.”

Rain at Alexander’s

Evaporation conspired with cold to leave water on the glass
Each drop in the dark becomes a point source of light

A near infinity of stars, pointing to this stage
To this place more real than imagined

A bar: just bricks and mortar, structured and useful
A shelter from the day; life reduced to physical sustenance

You remove your coat, and here begins the reveal,
That smile, a conversation; each action lays a trace

We are not first here, others will follow
Each hungry to share; to offer a small piece of memory

And you are beautiful; delicate, dangerous, dreamers
Recklessly stepping outside the man-made view

Our dying sun, ever distant, allowing in the dark that
Forces from us this overflowing incandescence

It is an abstract part of you that remains; a glad payment
An element that belongs here, knows its place in complexity

Many together, myriad spheres of influence; both cause and effect
An unfathomable reservoir in which I am happy lost

We have danced here, barefoot, in a crowd, saturated in a fantasy
Where permanence is something fleeting, locked away

Only in exhaustion, mortal and chilled do we rest
The exit reflected in the mirror shows us our selves, waiting.

© Rebecca Sowray 29th November 2012