TCWG April Story – Smoking is Bad for You



I was delighted that my March story ‘Gold, and Blue…’ came first in the voting!

The April theme for the Telegraph Creative Writing Group competition being ‘Health’, my story of the month ‘Smoking is bad for you’ is a 500-word short fiction about a survivor of children’s home abuse. Inspired by the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to prosecute Greville Janner due to his dementia. All characters are fictional.

Murder in Paradise Street: the first execution at Winson Green prison

Originally posted on Notes FROM 19TH CENTURY bIRMINGHAM:


At 8 am on  Tuesday March 17th 1885, Henry Kimberley was the first man to be executed within the walls of Birmingham prison. The press reported that the hangman was James Berry of Bradford and that ‘the sentence could scarcely have been carried out better than it was’. Kimberley was said to have shown ‘unexpected fortitude’.

Henry Kimberley was a 53 year old screw-tool maker, described as being ‘thick-set, about 5ft 6in high, with a low beetling forehead above which rises a tangled mass of brown hair, the lower part of his face being long and thin with a slight moustache’. The press reported that he looked older than 53, adding that his wife had claimed he was ‘nearer 60′. Kimberley had been separated from his wife for many years and had been cohabiting with 39 year old Harriet Steward for at least 17 years at 24, Pershore Rd. Although they…

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Gold, and blue…


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March’s theme for the Telegraph Creative Writing Group short story competition is ‘Money’, set by Pavlovaqueen, who once took me to see some of the finest treasures of the Dutch Golden Age at the Mauritshuis in the Hague. So, I’ve set ‘Gold, and blue…’ my short story about a legacy, amongst scenes of unashamed plagiarism of Dutch 17th century art. I really enjoyed writing it!

Letter writer

‘As it was seen from a tall chimney’, the 1858 eclipse

Originally posted on Notes FROM 19TH CENTURY bIRMINGHAM:

Total solar eclipse from Cape Tribulation, Queensland

Did you see the eclipse today (March 20th, 2015)? Or was it obscured by cloud?

In Victorian Birmingham, the eclipse of 1858 was observed through cloud and what we would now describe as ‘smog’. Smoke pollution, more often associated with the large factory towns of the North, was also a significant problem in Birmingham from early in the nineteenth century. It had been highlighted as a feature of the town by Mr. Pickwick (in Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, serialised in 1836), describing the volumes of dense smoke issuing heavily forth from high toppling chimneys, blackening and obscuring everything around’. The town’s various authorities had taken some measures against the ‘nuisance’, introducing bye-laws and very occasional prosecutions of the most persistent perpetrators. But they seemed reluctant to interfere in local business and the pollution prevailed through much of the century.

The extract here is taken from a letter to the editor of 

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‘The library was now the property of the citizens': Bloomsbury Branch Free Library: 1892-2013


For the advantage of the public at large…

Originally posted on Notes FROM 19TH CENTURY bIRMINGHAM:


In 2013 Birmingham City Council announced the closure of Bloomsbury library because of a difficulty with the heating system.  I found this particularly sad because it was a favourite haunt of my childhood and youth. It now appears to have been the thin edge of a wedge of library closures. While there is currently a focus on the slashing of services at the new Library of Birmingham (and rightly so), the loss of local libraries should also be of concern to all of us.  It is good to know that Bloomsbury library is listed, so the building should survive in some form or another, but hopefully it won’t be sold to the planners and might continue in providing the service for which it was built.

The introduction of free libraries in the nineteenth century was a source of much civic pride and a great asset to the people of Birmingham…

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Love is in the air…



Love is in the air, says British Corporate Thriller writer A A Abbott. But in a dark way. We were both reading at ‘Hearts of Darkness’, a live fiction evening last night at Brewsmiths in the Jewellery Quarter. The theme of the evening was the darker side of love, with the result that the love stories were twisted around themes such as murder, jealousy, ghosts, sex toys, genetic cloning, and ecclesiastical senior management (as applied to the saints).

Big thanks to Andrew and Angela who made us welcome, and to Donna Marie Finn for organising it.Brewsmiths

Telegraph Creative Writers Group January short story



The theme for our January competition was ‘Something Old’, preferably a short story written some time ago and never used.

Arrivals’ is a 600 word shortish piece written a couple of years ago, while I was doing Open University A215. We were asked to do a freewrite and base the story on that. I took my notebook to Heathrow T5, where I was meeting someone, and did the freewrite while I was waiting in the coffee bar. Afterwards I wove a brief story around it. I edited it again just prior to posting.


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