I’ve been writing a lot of small snippets over the last few weeks, as I’ve started a new course. So, for a change, I’m going to share some creative writing here in this blog instead of the usual vague ramblings about my cats, dogs, garden or other life trivia.
Some time ago, a character I adore arrived in mind. His name is Bob Sparrow and he is, to date, the only of my characters I can imagine on the big screen. I’d like to say I can see him up there in glorious technicolour, amid bright lights and movie stars, but in my visualisation of him, he’s shuffling around in shades of sepia with an orangey glow to a steam train-y background.
I have a longer story than this about Bob, which one day will be extended further, but for now, here’s a tiny glimpse into one moment in his life:
A snapshot of the Unpredictable Life of Bob Sparrow
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there.” The bag-laden woman shuffled along the aisle, leaving Bob Sparrow unaccompanied in his steamed-up window seat. The train lurched out of the station. Bob rubbed a spyhole with a slightly grubby handkerchief. What passed for a smile pulled the edges of his mouth upwards a fraction. He sighed—the contented sort, not the kind that woman omitted as she hoisted her bags onto the too-small overhead rack further down the carriage. If she’d sat next to him, he’d have helped.
He gazed out, far beyond the rushing coastline. As a boy, luggage racks had been an adventure; a climb and a leap and a hand shoving at his backside to give that last push onto the shelf. Always on the way home, never on the outward journey. The shrinking part of the day. He’d scrunch a coat under a headful of memory and nap as the family chugged homewards. Homewards from the soldiered hills of Edinburgh, or the donkey-hoof-printed sands of Weston-super-Mare. The punt-clogged rivers of Cambridge, or a fish-and-chip lunch on the bucket-and-spade tides of Rhyl … anywhere the train would carry them for the thrill of the ride and the price of an annual Rail-Riders pass. Rhyl. Today’s destination. He rubbed at the notebook in his breast pocket as a child fondles a security blanket, and thought happy thoughts of trains gone by.
The ticket collector’s voice preceded her, dipping and swaying in harmony with the rocking carriage, “Tickets please, thank you, ticket please, thank you, ticket, madam?” in a sing-song Welsh lilt, soft as a lullaby.
Bob’s ticket was waiting eagerly for the inspector’s attention, turned to the exact angle for her punch the blank space in the corner below the printed travel itinerary. She passed his seat, reaching for the ticket proffered by a passenger in the next row.
Bob coughed softly; a barely-there announcement of his presence.
The ticket collector stepped backwards, drew parallel to his seat, squinted towards him. Bob peered at her through foggy spectacles, his sepia eyes flickering at her momentarily. He ducked his head and held forth his ticket.
“I’m sorry sir, I didn’t see you there.” She crunched her contraption through his ticket, an unwelcome hole sullying his destination.
Bob tucked the spoiled ticket into his notebook, slipped both into the pocket of his anorak and rooted in his knapsack for a packet of Fruit Pastilles. He used a stubby (but clean) fingernail to prise back the wrapper to reveal the treat. A black one; his favourite. Outwardly, there was no change to his expression, but inwardly, he was smiling. He sucked slowly, savouring, making it last until the next station, where, with a flush of daring, he tore back the foil and took another. Yellow this time. The colour of the sand of his childhood summers: Rhyl. A caravan on the edge of the trainline, a bridge to the sand, seagulls vying for the leftover edges of sandwiches: crusts devoid of Marmite… cheese and pickle… ham and cucumber, always soggy. Today, if the rain cleared, he’d roll up his trousers, slip out of his shoes, fold his darned greyish socks into the pockets of his anorak, and dip his toes in the sea, let them sink into the damp sand.
Maybe next week, I’ll tell you how he arrived in my head. That, too, was part of a much bigger story.