By 7.30 on Monday 19 March four members of the Severn Valley Authors were sitting down to coffee and cake in Welch Gate. No Tony or Annie, who are never late, and we began to wonder how we were going to manage a meeting in the absence Tony, who was supposed to be reading his latest short story. Ten minutes later, however, they turned up. Their uncharacteristic lateness had been due to Tony driving to Rob’s house by mistake, and after a hard day at school, Annie had been too exhausted to notice.
Tony’s short story, entitled The Limit, was excellently written and an enjoyable read. There was much to admire in the authoritative description of a career in journalism, the expert and easy treatment of dialogue and the following delicious metaphor in the opening paragraph: In the grey-blue flesh of the evening sky he watched an aeroplane make a peach-coloured incision with its vapour trail. The cut quickly healed itself as the trail evaporated and Richard smiled to himself.
Tony cunningly managed to sustain the readers’ interest by keeping the location of the main character nicely ambiguous until the very last word of the piece, at which point the reader realises with a jolt that Richard Wycherley is reminiscing over his career as a newspaper reporter from his patio on another planet.
Most of the discussion surrounded the problem of the time over which the events had taken place. Rob pointed out that the main character, given his whereabouts, had to be reminiscing from a time in the fairly distant future; yet, as a budding journalist, he had interviewed Spitfire pilots – the youngest of whom would have been around 85 years old by the year 2010. So if Richard Wycherley was reminiscing from a patio on another planet, it couldn’t have been too far in the future, for he wouldn’t have survived that long. If he’d been born in 1985 he’d have been 25 in the year 2010. The narrative excludes the possibility that he’d retired or was even considering retirement, so it seems unlikely that Richard was relaxing on his patio on Planet Zog much later than 2050 - and we all felt that the idea that people could be drinking wine on their patios on one or more planets in less than 40 years time was a little far-fetched.
Stretching Annie’s credulity was also the fact that Richard could lean back in his patio chair at the same time as reaching for the wine glass at his feet.
Clive (who enjoyed the quality of the writing but shared the general confusion about time) remarked judicially that you probably could if you were pissed. He should know.
Exercising his right to reply, Tony stated that two thirds of the story could have been set in the present. The exercise became a game to see how long he could keep the reader wondering where Richard Wycherley was doing his reminiscing.
Rob announced that he had abandoned his efforts to get literary festivals interested in his talk about the background to his novel-in-waiting No Mean Affair. No doubt they’ll change their tune when it gets published. He is writing a new short story for the Bristol competition and has entered the ‘As You Read It’ short story competition, along with Tony and Annie. Winners will be invited to read out their stories in at the Forum Theatre in Malvern on 17 May. Tony has already booked tickets and we decided to make it an SVA day out. Linda was feeling under pressure because her computer had expired and she was having nightmares getting used to the funky new red Toshiba lap-top - with a mentoring session with Kathryn Heyman looming next week. Clive stated that he had no news and had become so outraged by British politics that he didn't even feel able to blog about it. A shame - Clive's recent blogs on current events have been excellent and insightful and wouldn't be out of place in a newspaper column (http://cliveeardley.weebly.com). Personally I've always found any powerful emotion, whether positive or negative, provides a terrific incentive to write.
The next meeting will take place on Monday 2 April at Clive’s. Annie to read, and Clive to blog.