As this blog continues taking steps on its creative journey, I’ve come to realise that it’s lacking something.
Well, it’s probably lacking several things – some maybe more fundamental than others – but hopefully things I can change or fix as I learn more. But the immediate ‘thing’ I’ve realised it lacks is some actual fruitless work!
Thanks to limited time and a focus on bigger projects, I’ve neglected the recording of some of the random creative moments that were the original motivation behind the FruitlessWork theme. And in an effort to start rectifying that, I have something truly random to share.
Steak and Ale
Thanks to a conversation with a few friends about pies – involving some dubious pie-themed punnage – I was inspired (sorry, ins-pie-ered) to write the following:
I once met a certain Mr. Winton of televisual fame. He was trying to train his dog, but wasn't having much luck and was a bit down about it.
"He just won't do as he's told," Winton said to me.
I got him to give me a demonstration, and sure enough, when he asked the dog to wait, it wouldn't listen.
"I think it's the commands," said Dale. "I don't think 'stay' is good enough, he doesn't seem to like it. 'Stay' can't be used."
"Don't stress, fella," I replied. "I might know someone who can help you out. Don't use words like 'can't'. When it comes to commands that work, 'Stay' can, Dale."
I walked away, having an unexplained urge to go and buy a pie.
Perfectly silly, I’m sure you’ll agree. Needless to say, I immediately shared it with my friends and got to work thinking of another.
Chicken and Mushroom
I was reminded of the time I got stuck in a lift with a certain Mr. Dodd. It was a tiny lift, and we were in there for hours with only a few bottles of whisky to sustain us throughout the ordeal.
Alas, my temper could not survive the experience, and about 90 minutes in - when we were both very merry - I began to find the invasion on my personal space too much to bear. Slurring badly, I could contain my frustration no longer.
"Gee, Ken, ain' mush room," I attempted to say, before slumping in a corner and falling asleep through stress. For some reason, I dreamt of pies...
Feeling unjustifiably smug with the day’s work, I gave little further thought to other common pie flavours. They all seemed too much like hard work, and I expected my friends’ patience to wear as thin as a good shortcrust pastry.
The next day, as if to somehow prove that ideas will spread if you show them to the right people, Martin (my team mate when we appeared on the quiz show Pointless) got in touch with his own e-mail.
I was once perusing the wares in a local antique store, looking for a specific item. I got in to a long and arduous argument with the proprietor as to whether the item I was looking for existed, and so we started going through catalogues and eventually the net to look at various dealer websites.
“So you’re looking for a tropical hardwood piece, with a particular pattern?” the proprietor confirmed.
“Yes,” I replied, “preferably something to do with young farmyard animals, in particular I’m a fan of roosting birds.”
“I really don’t think we’ll find anything, sir!” said the owner, exasperated. So I made a bet that if we found it he’d give me half price, and if we didn’t, I’d pay him anyway for his time.
“Wait!!” I exclaimed, happy to finally be able to win the bet and rub it in a bit, “look at that listing there! ... Chick on Teak! Aaaah!” For some reason I went away dreaming of pies...
Chicken and Asparagus
All was quiet for a few hours, until the third participant in this conversation replied to us both. It took the whole pie ‘thing’ in an unexpected direction. Why?
Because he had a request.
Unbeknownst to Martin and me, he forwarded the previous e-mails to a few of his colleagues. And they apparently wanted to set a challenge or two… ‘Meat and potato’ was duly despatched with a slightly clumsy effort. ‘Fish pie’ was politely glossed over: there’s not much pun potential in those two words, and trying to come up with a punnable combination of any or all of cod, haddock, salmon, prawns and cheesy sauce proved to be a task beyond my wits.
Then somebody said they like chicken and asparagus...
Ken and Emma from the waterfowl farm sat in the car. Two of their birds were on the back seat, languid, as if they somehow knew their ultimate fate.
"I thought he was very rude," said Ken. "Never in all my years of selling to fast food restaurants have I been talked to like that."
"Okay, well, he was a she, for a start," said Emma, remaining rational. "At least you sold one of the geese to the other place. There's clearly a market for these chains to use better ingredients, so don't give up just yet."
"He didn't have to question the quality of what we were offering though!"
"Ken, it was a woman we were talking to. And it doesn't matter, I can still spin the story the right way in the press release."
"I think you should threaten a bad media story. What headline are you thinking of? He'd soon change his opinion if it meant good press..."
Emma sighed. "How many times? SHE, Ken! Nandos spare a goose?"
Ken grunted, refusing to say anything. He started the car and set off, for some reason thinking about pies.
I shouldn’t really have learnt anything from this entirely pointless and frivolous exercise. Yet, the unavoidable conclusion was that – possibly for the first time in my creative life – I had found a genuine audience for something I'd built from nothing.
It was a small audience, and the whole thing fizzled out after the adventures of Ken and Emma. Arguably, we simply knew when to stop! Regardless, it was wholly satisfying to have strangers reading something I’d written and (on some level at least) find it entertaining enough to want more. It was enough of an experience to make me believe it can happen again, and hopefully on a larger scale.
Once upon a time, I wanted to write a novel. When I look back on my efforts now, I am truly ashamed at the lack of imagination and technical ability on display. Non-fiction is definitely my preferred form of written expression.
Another result of crafting these silly tales, however, was to reignite the dormant passion for imagining stories. There was definitely something to be learnt from having an end point – the pie name in pun form – and then incorporating all the elements necessary for it to make some sort of sense (relatively speaking!).
In truth, it was probably closer to joke writing than fiction writing, but I always try to write with a sense of humour (even though honesty and earnestness sometimes mean that humour isn’t much in evidence…) and so I couldn't help but focus on the storytelling element.
I still doubt that I possess the ability to upscale the technique to novella or novel length fiction, but maybe one day I’ll consider trying to write a short story or two. Just to see what comes of it, of course.
After all, anything to help earn a crust…