Doorway Writing Group December 2017

Doorway Writing Group December 2017
Beyond discussions about short stories and Quick Read books round the writing table, a number of guests had a go at this month’s crossword and word search puzzles; the word search themes of car parts and dog breeds proved good for stimulating some interesting conversations.
There seemed to be quite a French theme to today’s session: in honour of K’s dedication in completing the jigsaw picture of an open air cafe scene in Paris, three of the crossword answers also had a French connection: cul-de-sac (a street or passage closed at one end); pas de deux (a dance for two people); Pyrenees (mountain range between France and Spain). We discussed a few funny ways of including all three in a special short story but in the end J opted to write out a couple of poems for us instead. Happy reading and happy Christmas! Be with you again in the New Year.

Advent (a poem by J)
The names and dates carved into the wall
Beyond living memory
Castaways of history
But candle flames
Maybe a flicker of remembrance
For those who pause in halls
Between and after the wars
When the lights are put outside
And the trees are brought indoors
And the everlasting arms of the God-who-is-good
Wait to safely gather them all

Sharp-shooting (a poem by J)
Monday night in the Ladyfield Drive
The lights are on and we’re alive
Warm ups, jogging, pant and stretch
Off Kev dashes to fetch the vests
Kick off and there’s no anxiety
The future’s round and leathery
Criss-crossing, zigzagging
Football Rules
We’re nobody’s fools
For an hour or so, start the week,
Just sharpshooting

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Doorway Writing Group November 2017

Doorway Writing Group November 2017

In addition to a crossword, guests were invited to complete a word search this month focusing on popular cartoon characters. This combination seemed to work well with at least seven guests participating, aided and encouraged by volunteers and two visiting literacy/learning disability specialists.
J composed what he called ‘a daft poem’ for us to enjoy. See below. He also took up the challenge of including words from this session’s crossword in a piece of writing, selecting the words ‘mastiff’ and ‘teashop’ to weave into part 3 of his short story. He had, he said, been looking for a few fresh ideas to spark some connections and these would do just fine! We’ll certainly look forward to seeing what he does with them – part 3 to be posted in our December blog.

Bat Lament (a poem by J)

The simple art of letting go
Is not too cool for bats you know,
For not being stuck to the ceiling
We end up on the floor
Which makes bat bedtimes such a chore
Ah well, fear of the dark is all in my mind
But what bothers me batty is we’re mostly blind
Such a cruel joke of nature
Has made us all nocturnal aviators
So if humans when trying to rest
Glimpse a flattering shape in a high vis vest
A high-pitched shriek and a miner’s hat
It’s only me…
The scaredy bat.

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Doorway Writing Group October 2017

Doorway Writing Group October 2017
We had a quiet but fruitful session this month as we resumed after a short break.
A number of guests had a go at the crossword: some working together – discussing the clues in groups, some taking a copy home to try out later.
We wish K good luck with his new tenancy. We will miss the intriguing circus anecdotes but here’s to his next chapter in a more settled life.
J contributed a poem – as thought-provoking as ever – and part two of a story. Read on and enjoy!

Tadpole Village (a poem by J)
“Life is waiting”*
The tadpole village is emerging
That the planners have spawned
Transplanted from the drawing board
New houses, new roads, schools,
New beginnings.

The village of Hannington
A little farther on, also, is a new village
Transplanted in the aftermath of the
Black Death Epidemic
The old village deserted, buried, abandoned…

Like Blakehill airfield, after the war
Now the flight path of westbound geese
Honking at sunrise in V formation
While amongst the brambles and thorns
A new heart is beating, in chrysalis
By a single thread suspended
And waiting for a butterfly
*From The Cider House Rules (1999)

Part 2 of story by J, first posted in May 2017 blog, (renamed A Pilgrimage of Chaos)
Bright autumnal sunshine.
Freddie tossed a pie crust across the path in the park.
Repeats… That was Freddie’s CV for today.
“Hi,” said a voice on the bench beside him. It was Nigel, his adviser from an hour ago. Freddie was a little surprised.
Nigel took his sandwiches from his briefcase.
“I always eat my lunch here, you don’t mind sharing the bench, do you?”
“No, not at all,” said Freddie. “I won’t be here long.”
They began eating together in silence while pigeons squabbled and fought for the crusts beneath them.
Nigel paused, mid-sandwich and swallowed.
“You know I saw you an hour ago, you cleared your throat and a most peculiar thing happened.”
Freddie felt his brain jolted as he anticipated the thread of the conversation. HE KNEW THIS PERSON.
“20 years ago at least,” Freddie ventured hesitantly.
Nigel nodded. “You were the boy in the car park over there that night.”
Freddie tried to straighten himself clutching his knees, almost shaking as his brain reeled back the years to an empty car park in the small hours of a drizzly Sunday night.
Freddie sat absorbed, as Nigel continued, picking at imaginary threads on his jeans.
“Yes a long time ago, but what a night. After you panicked me I went back home before my parents knew I’d gone. I just lay there waiting for morning, you know life is worth hanging on to I told myself, and I learnt that emotions make a tyrannical master.”
“Yep,” Freddie nodded.
“When you weren’t there I was sure you’d jumped. I never ran down those stairs so fast. I paced up and down for over an hour in front of the car park and I came back next morning and as I stood there looking up…” He paused.
Nigel nodded eagerly, encouraging.
“Well, I felt that…my life had… HUMAN VALUE!”
“And now here you are, so many years later.”
“Anyway strange meeting eh!”
“Take care.”
“Yes, good luck!”
Freddie walked the familiar lanes back home, musing under colossal, portentious clouds.
Nigel walked away, patted his briefcase and turned, just in time to see two screaming seagulls circling the air with the remains of his lunch.

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Doorway Writing Group August 2017

Writing Group August 2017
Our Writing Group had the pleasure of a visitor today: the charming Josh who is hoping to set up a creative writing hub in Swindon (initially via breakfast and lunch clubs) and beyond that to involve youth theatre groups in drama projects revolving around issues of homelessness. He seemed pleased at the opportunity to chat with some of our guests – especially those involved with the writing group – and has hopefully gone away fired up and ready to launch his exciting ideas in September.
Today’s Writing Group crossword generated the usual level of interest and two guests – the wonderful J and K – contributed some writing for you to enjoy: two poems and Jakarta memoirs part 3. Happy reading!
Tidying up (a poem by J)
Taking a look at myself
A frame to keep the world without
Peace within
And that is where my heart belongs

Taking a look around
Torn and crumpled memories
Mended, reassembled
Fragments of the sun
Where my heart belongs

Taking a look at you
An anchor when my life
is drifting
A smile for my pain
is lifting
Every precious grain
is shifting
All things must pass
To stand at last
And that’s where my heart belongs

Kandu Kicks Tournament 2017 (a poem by J)
A red kite soars above the fields of Stanley
as the driveway unravels
a gentle descent to Stanley Park.

The changing rooms are buzzing like a beehive
Teams emerge in multi-coloured procession
A shattering of rainbows.

On the pitch we find,
people are kind
We didn’t win but never mind.
There’s still a goal in front
and a goal behind.

Antics and injuries
Graces and furies
A day well spent
Our innocent intent.

Standing in line
The cups awarded, speeches made
and people applauded.
Changed again, back on the road
Off to reclaim the rainbow goal.

Djakarta Memories Part 3 (by K)
Building the tent was something of an exercise in trial and error, it being a new tent, and a new ‘tent master’, who seemed to know as little about it as everybody else. Never the less at the third attempt and after the fourth tropical deluge (of rain) it eventually stood fairly respectably. The seating had come from a different tent and wasn’t quite the same shape as the tent we were using but after two weeks we had managed to assemble everything and rehearsals began. There were four Italian acrobats, five Italian clowns, a German troupe who both rode a motorbike along a steel cable and balanced on ‘sway poles’, 10 metres above the ground, five American trapeze artists, two of whom also did a second aerial act. The animals were presented by people called Chipperfield, except the tigers for whom a German trainer had been engaged.

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The Diary of John Bloggs – Chapter Two

Chapter Two

I’m skipping a few years… but let’s just say working. Never been afraid to work. Have a strong work ethic. Left home as such. Got my place, a one bed flat. Housing association. Can’t believe I was paying in those days £40 a month rent in 1976. Yes readers it’s correct!  I also remember what a great summer we had that year.

Hope I’m not rambling on too much, but had a sort of settled life for a space of a few years. Then in 1979 it all came crashing down. The company I was working for went from profits to bad debts and was wound up. Hell what am I going to do. So looking around found casual work involving the building trade. The first job I did was digging out a walk pathway.

We’re now in the 80’s. I’m just about keeping my head above the water with paying rent, which was rising with the times.

I’m in the mid 80’s now. Hear about work in the Docklands, East London. There’s going to be a massive redevelopment – regeneration to happen. Well think this could be a lucky break for me. Left my flat with the bills paid.

Gone to London. Working on new access roads. Very good money. Hotel accommodation paid for by employer. Two years of nose to the grindstone but also got charmed by the London nightlife. Pubs, clubs got right into it. Looking back now I don’t know how I did it. Worked seven days a week and went out seven days a week.

Then in 86 I sensed all was not right. And it was to be a pivotal point in my life. Company I worked for taken off contract. A bigger more power company. Trained their own guys up in road surfacing. You will see the road and spill offs should you watch the London marathon on tv. When in the docklands, the race covers a long stretch of road that is brick red. That’s what I worked on. This was before Canary Wharf was started.

Hell hang on I thought. Friday job gone. Accommodation with it gone. I had not been paid for nearly a month. What the! So that’s the night I walked the streets thinking someone help me out of this.

Next morning ended up in St Mary’s Hospital Paddington. Blisters like balloons on my feet.

End of Chapter two.

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The Diary of John Bloggs


I first became aware of John on Twitter around 5 years ago as @bullringbash

He stood out, amongst the crowd of organisations and individuals in the homelessness sector, since he was obviously challenging people’s stereotypical visions of those who are homeless in a very unique way.

Not only was John candid and eloquent but he knew what he was talking about (he has been homeless on and off for 30 years) and he spoke in a very refreshingly honest manner.

Over the years we had sporadic contact with each other until in June this year I finally managed to meet up with him in London whilst visiting Mark Horvath @hardlynormal who was over from the US for a brief visit. He turned out to be even more of a legend in person with a brilliant sense of humour and a very engaging personality.

Mark Horvath managed to convince John to sit still long enough to film two video interviews which have been uploaded on to the Invisible People website.

After meeting up with him John ended up in hospital with serious health issues and he is currently in a hostel in London whilst negotiating his way through the tangled web of statutory services, hostels and the ‘priority need’ criteria for accessing accommodation.

It was while he was posting on Twitter about the joys of being able to eat toast (not something that is ever considered to be a luxury) that I came up with the blindingly brilliant idea of asking him to speak out about his life and his experiences on the street whilst he had access to free wi-fi.

And so this is the story of John Bloggs… in chapters and in his own words. Typed by him on a smartphone and then uploaded onto the Doorway blog by me under his own account.

I have no idea how this is going to play out but this is the whole reason that I set up the blog in the first place. A platform for those who are rarely listened to in our society – giving people who are marginalised a voice to speak out…

Lisa Lewis, Doorway July 2017

Chapter One

The Diary of John… who wears a label… but being homeless is not an identity. Just an event in a person’s life. For some it’s just one page in a book of life. For others a chapter. For a group of people termed ‘entrenched’ it’s many chapters in their lives. Including how my life has unfolded in front of my eyes. Age is just a number but the benefit of the reader I am now 65 years old.

Homelessness. A very emotive word. But when you’re young it does resonate later on in life. There have been lots of celebrations going on about the film ‘Cathy Come Home’ which is now 50 years old. Well my thoughts are what’s to celebrate when you have lived that experience in the past. By this I mean living in many B&Bs at the age of six years old till almost nine years old.

My parents in the early fifties decided to emigrate to Tasmania on what was called the £10 assisted passage. We were literally at Southampton docks ready to go and my mother found out she was pregnant. Terms of assisted passage was no children under two years old. Well this is my understanding of what happened and told at an early age.

My next memory was seeing my brother born. Just after. The next time I saw him he was nearly seven years old and we were on the move. No end of different B&Bs and which also meant I went to lots of different schools with all the moving. At some I was behind with school work at others I was in front. But found out later the seeds were sown. A destiny pathway. Forever moving later on in life without any roots.

Eventually we settled down. My brother came back to the family. He had been living with my mother’s parents in Cornwall. I did not know him at all. Stranger! Even had an accent I did not understand.

He felt the same. This was not home for him either. Kept running away back to what he thought was his parents. I can’t imagine he is nearly sixty now. We have not spoken in thirty-five years. Only just recently found out where he lives too.

End of Chapter One.

I will intersect here… In my early sixties I find out I have a daughter which I’d heard about in passing conversation. 33 years ago. Talking to two guys I had worked with on a short term contract I met again some years later who told me about her. But thought just telling me stories in a pub! I did check but could find nothing. But 30 years later and looking through the internet on a New Year’s Eve cause don’t drink no more find this name. Look it up on Facebook which I’ve never used before. More on this later.
It’s part and parcel. Things you can miss forever. That people take for granted. Sitting at a table as a family eating a meal together. Well all I can say is what’s that?

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Doorway Writing Group July 2017

Our July writing group was quiet but fruitful. Four guests took a keen interest in this month’s crossword, ably aided and abetted by various volunteers.
At the writing table, we spoke about the trials of writing on demand: always a challenge. We agreed that the ‘you will now sit down and write for an hour’ approach only really works for the most disciplined among us. We discussed the paradoxical relationship between tiredness and creativity. If you’re trying to make yourself write something when you’re tired, you often get nowhere but why is it then that some of our best, or most exciting, ideas come late at night, in the middle of the night or early in the morning when we are actually pretty short of sleep? And we all know how incredibly hard it can be to resist the urge to ‘obey the Muse’ and start writing at such times. No wonder we creative types are so often all over the place!
On the subject of creative types then, you are cordially invited to feast on this month’s contributions from J and K. Bon appétit!

Station to Station (a poem by J)

The stars revolve, an old tuning dial
wandering through the sky from
dusk till dawn
constellations, station to station
chanting the universal symphony
playing the music of the spheres.
Tuning in to the uncharted frequencies
of the imagination
exploring the brittle silence of the night
wrapped in mystery senses orphaned in the darkness
keenly awaiting the birth of the world.

The Zigzag Army of the Homeless (a poem by J)

We shall find them on the benches
We shall find them on the street
until everybody has a home
or at least a bite to eat

The ragged troops have mustered
drilling for the change
sending out observers
and keeping out of range

The orders are pretty vague
the ranks are vaguer still
there’s no chance of promotion
and only time to kill.

The Next Best Thing (a poem by J)
The world is going crazy
for the next best thing
in the pharmacological playground
it’s the only thing that swings

We are brought up to believe
that only the best will win
but in the meantime we are keenly
pursuing the next best thing

The next best thing
never satisfies
The next best thing
is a warning to the wise
Just believing in the best
forgetting all the rest
Substitution is no solution
to what will really pass the test.

Djakarta Circus Memories – Part 2 (by K)
Djakarta in those days was a city of two halves, the rich and modern who lived alongside the poor and traditional. Labour saving was unheard of, even to the extent that wheelbarrows didn’t exist. Instead they had four handles so that it could be carried by two people. In effect a sedan chair to carry bricks. The circus ground was close to the disused racecourse – although disused it was still being maintained and mown frequently. Quite why this was, I never discovered since most people agreed that horse racing would never be allowed again.

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