Meeting other writers, and working with others is a most stimulating, interesting and useful process, and I’ve joined a course which is taking place at the American Museum Bath – “Using objects from the Museum’s collection as prompts, Alex and Jude will inspire you with their creative writing exercises and help you find your writing voice. Sessions are fun, informal, and will explore character development, point of view, and plot, among other subjects. The sessions are suitable for complete beginners or for writers who would like an inspirational boost.”

This is what I wrote during the first session:

The Curator of the Umbrella Factory Museum

I knew that Malcolm worked in the local history museum; it’s on the road leading out of Easthope, but tucked away round the back in a nineteenth century building which was part of the old umbrella factory.

He was one of my house-k=mates in the shared Edwardian villa at the other end of our little town, and I probably wouldn’t have got to know him if our rooms weren’t opposite each other across the small landing on the top floor.

he didn’t come downstairs very often, never chilled in the lounge part of the open-plan area on the ground floor, but would come down to cook his meals. The rest of us would cook for ourselves, share a meal, or get a take-away… Malcolm never did. He was invited to join us and responded pleasantly but always cooked his simple meals and took them upstairs back to his room.

By the time I rented my room,the others were so used to him that there was no gossip or char and though he sort of fascinated me because he was my nearest neighbour, I didn’t really ask about him. I guess Malcolm was in his thirties, or maybe forties, brown hair cut in a normal but vaguely old-fashioned way, I don’t know if women would think he was good-looking, he just looked normal to me.

One evening as I was trying to concentrate on the massive tome which was all I needed to learn for my next exam to be a financial advisor… so dull, so dull, there was a knock on my door.

Most people in the house would knock and stick their head round the door if it was open, as it usually was, but Malcolm knocked. I rolled off my bed and opened th already ajar door.

“Hello David, sorry to disturb you, but something has slipped down the back of my wardrobe and I can’t shift it.”

“No worries, Malcolm, I’ll see if I can help.”

II must say I was intrigued to see the inside of Malcolm’s room; he had stepped back as i opened my door and he didn’t so much as glance over my shoulder into my room. My room is pretty much as you’d expect – untidy, clothes in heaps, books in piles, an array of dirty mugs along the window sills, an Irish flag hanging off the side of the wardrobe, and photos of my family and girlfriend on the small chest of drawers.

Malcolm had closed his door behind him and now keyed in the code on the number pad. His room was the same as mine, but the other way round, a sort of mirror image but it hardly looked as if anyone lived there. Apart from a couple of books on the chest of drawers there was absolutely nothing personal on display. The bed was pristine, a plain brown duvet cover, beige pillowslips… it was almost shocking in its emptiness, and the friendly witter I was about to utter died on my lips.

I knew Malcolm had lived here for a couple of years – I’d been here just over a year and he’d been established for longer than that.

“Er… David…”

I’d been staring around – staring at nothing actually because there was nothing to see. It looked like an empty room.

I apologised and went to help him manoeuvre the wardrobe.

My featured picture is not of an umbrella factory, it is of the Underfall yard in Bristol

Here is a link to my books on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

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