View from the Bridge: 11

by John Morrison


11: Amnesia Avenue

Local Writer sits at the bar of the Flag, leafing distractedly through a back issue of Warm Beer Monthly. As he removes yet another grey hair from the lapel of his shabby tweed jacket, he's feeling every one of his 46 years. He looks at the back of his hand and notices those little brown spots that old guys have.

The ageing process starts almost imperceptibly then picks up speed; he makes a mental note of a few tell-tale signs. At parties you don't try to chat up the available talent, you just hope you don't get stuck in a low chair. You tune into Radio 2 and find they're playing all your favourite songs. You listen to Richard Clayderman and you think: "Aaaaawwwwllllriiighttt...".

Young people stop being 'us' and start being 'them', and your conversations are peppered with meaningless refrains like "when I was your age...", "of course, that was a lot of money in those days..." and "You know, maybe Mary Whitehouse wasn't taking bollocks after all". You are tempted by small-ads for sensible trousers in the popular papers, and when you go window shopping you find yourself gazing covetously at a Goblin Teasmade.

You develop an unaccountable interest in golf, gardening and church architecture. You get a strange desire to make a milky drink before bedtime and develop a taste for shortbread biscuits. You think twice before buying a five-year diary.

All you've got to look forward to is losing memory capacity and control over vital sphincter muscles. And what then? Just a quiet stroll down Amnesia Avenue into anecdotage and an early death. Local Writer ponders morosely what people would say about him when he was gone: in an ideal world it would be "That bastard owed me money".

It's a bad case of writers' block that's brought on this rather depressing train of thought. Yet once it was all so very different. As a lad he'd had a literary turn of mind: he was a page at his sister's wedding. And the writing career had begun so promisingly, with his first book winning the coveted crouton d'or at the Guernsey Book Fair. This inconsequential award emboldened him to resign from his safe but boring job - making wet-look trousers for the incontinent - to take the plunge and write full-time. The writer's life, he felt, had a lot to recommend it: the hours might be poor but at least there's no heavy lifting

He sold his house (which came as a bit of a surprise to his landlord) and moved to Milltown, the 'Hampstead of the North', hoping to rub shoulders with other bookish folk. However his first conversation with one of the town's other hacks was an inauspicious beginning. "I'm writing a book", he said. "That's a coincidence", came the reply, "neither am I...".

Local Writer's happiest inventions were in the genre of the crime novel. It may seem strange that most of private eyes in literature are antisocial, maladjusted loners. While this may not reflect the character of most private eyes, it's certainly a serviceable description of your average writer.

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