Same Walk, different perspectives — practising writing skills

Background

Kali and I are studying the Domestika narrative writing course by Alberto Chimal. We have been given short pieces of fiction to write to develop our writing skills. We are introduced gently to different techniques, where we have to tweak a factual account of a walk that we have done.

Walk #1

I open the front door and look at my wife putting her walking boots on. I take photos of the flowers in pots on our porch. When I turn around she is setting off and I follow her. I see traffic queueing at the traffic lights and as we approach a fire engine rushes by with flashing lights and blazing sirens. As I pass I look back at the contrasting peacefulness of the clouds, the trees and the ancient tollgate house. When I turn around I see my wife has similar thoughts – she is curiously examining a shrub leaf.

We cross the main road and walk down a quiet country lane. When we reach the allotment entrance on the right I look for the footpath stile on the left. I step through the stile and under the low branches and walk across the fields. I stop and look at a cracked tree. It is still alive. Then I look at a hedgerow. I cross more stiles and more fields. Eventually I reach a field of horses and see it is fenced off into sections. I see someone riding and they are jumping over horse-jump fences. I wait while my wife takes photos. I walk past the horses and cross a footbridge over an old railway track. I reach a field of mature barley interspersed with poppies and enjoy several minutes just looking.

I follow the path along the side of the field and it joins the old railway track. After a short distance I find a footpath turning right off the track. I cross another field and admire a very large ancient tree on a dirt track. I follow this and it reaches Bilton Lane opposite the pub and I turn right up the hill. As I walk past I admire the individual detached houses and their gardens along the lane. I see a locked gate across the road and walk through the stile.

I see several groups of other walkers coming towards me and passing. Among them I note an older boy placing large weed stalks on the ground. With him is an old lady in a wheelchair. She rolls over the stalks and they make very satisfying loud crunching sounds. I reach a junction and turn right. I see long grass on the verge in flower. I see a poster for a lost cat on a fence post. I remember seeing this cat stalking through our garden. I note down the phone number so I can call the owner. I reach the main road and notice several other signs. I walk back down the main road until I arrive home.

Basic+

Here we start by inserting some fiction into a basic description of real events. The fictional elements are small and should blend in, not stand out.

Walk #2

I open the front door and look at Jane putting her walking boots on. I turn and look at the flowers in pots on our porch. This reminds me of our recent disastrous walking holiday in the Swiss Alps. When I turn back I see she’s already set off down the street. She turns right and I quickly follow her. I see traffic queueing at the traffic lights and a fire engine flashes by with sirens blaring. I want to keep the calm I had when I woke up. I want to cut out the clamour in my life just for a moment or two. So I look back at the peacefulness of the clouds, the trees and the medieval tollgate house across the road.

When I turn around Jane is 100 paces ahead already and has reached the country lane on the other side. I hurry to catch up. When I reach the allotment entrance on the right she has disappeared. I look for the footpath stile on the left and step through under the low branches and walk across the fields. Then I try to look ahead through a hedgerow. I rush across more stiles and more fields. Eventually I reach a field of horses and see Jane taking photos. I rejoin her without a word. We walk on and reach a field of golden barley interspersed with red poppies. Normally we would stop and enjoy the moment, at peace with nature. But it has not been the same since Switzerland.

After crossing a couple of fields we pass an ancient craggy tree on a dirt track. The sky is darkening and so is my mood as we turn off the track and up the hill. She is walking so fast that I can barely keep up, so I don’t have time to admire the houses and gardens along the lane. I barely notice other walkers passing by, apart from a strange boy throwing plants at someone in a wheelchair. When we are almost back I see a poster for a lost cat on a fence post. Lost, like me. I reach home a few steps behind her, out of breath and despondent. I wish I could turn the clock back.

Anticipation

More details to follow

Walk #3

I open the front door and look at my wife putting her walking boots on. I look at the flowers in pots on our porch and somehow it reminds me of our hiking holiday in the Swiss Alps in the spring where we saw those amazing wildflower meadows. My wife walks down the street and I follow her. I see traffic queueing at the traffic lights and as we turn right I see a fire engine pass by. I look back at the storm clouds gathering on the horizon, the trees and the tollgate house. It is busy but at the same time I feel peaceful. When I turn around my wife is examining a shrub leaf.

We cross the road and walk down a side lane. When we reach the allotments on the right I look for the footpath stile on the left. I step through the stile and under the low branches and walk across the fields. I stop and look at a lightning-struck tree, split and partly burnt but still alive. I hear a peal of thunder and feel a bit vulnerable walking in the open field. I look in a hedgerow and see hazelnuts and crab-apples. The fruit of autumn is everywhere around me. The weather is changing, a storm may be coming. I don’t have a coat but somehow this doesn’t seem to matter at the moment. Then I cross more stiles and more fields. Eventually I reach a field of horses and see it is fenced off into sections. I wait while my wife takes photos. I walk past the horses and across a footbridge over an old railway track. I reach a field of golden barley with red poppies intermingling and enjoy several minutes just looking. It makes my spine tingle like the feeling I had walking in the meadows above Lake Geneva.

I follow the path along the side of the field and it joins the converted railway track. After a short distance I find a footpath turning right off the track. I cross another field and admire a very large ancient tree on a dirt track. I follow this and it reaches Bilton Lane opposite the pub and I turn right up the hill. As I walk I admire the individual detached houses and their gardens along the lane. I see a locked gate across the road and walk through the stile. I see several groups of other walkers coming towards me and passing. I note an older boy placing large weed stalks on the ground. I see an old lady in a wheelchair roll over the stalks. I reach a junction and turn right. I see long grass on the verge in flower. I see a poster for a lost cat on a fence post. I reach the main road and notice all the signs. I walk back down the main road until I arrive home. I feel both a sense of peace and of vitality, like I have communed with nature.

Echo

More details to follow

Walk #4

I open the front door and watch my wife putting her walking boots on. I look at the flowers in pots on our porch. It felt so peaceful, there were no clues – how could I know there was a storm coming? Then I notice my wife looking down the street. She looks worried. She dashes to the right and I follow her. I see there is a traffic jam at the lights, but it is much bigger than usual and as we turn the corner a fire engine screeches by, sirens blaring. I look back at the clouds, the trees and the tollgate house. I am getting in the mood for a peaceful connection with nature. But when I turn around my wife has disappeared. The footpath ahead is empty. I look across the road in case she has already crossed. There’s no-one there. The cars are passing quickly but none have stopped.

In the corner of my eye I catch a flash of bright blue near the country lane we usually walk down. I am worried. She was wearing a blue top. I cannot imagine how she could get there so fast unless someone grabbed her somehow. I run across the road recklessly and cars blow their horns at me. I rush down the lane, but there’s still no-one in sight. Going round a bend, I can see at least 300 metres ahead. So when I reach the allotment entrance on the right I quickly look across the allotments and then head for the footpath stile opposite. I step through the stile and under the low branches and jog across the fields. Now there’s no time to stop and look at any trees or hedgerows. I cross another stile and another field. No sign of her.

I realise I must be looking in the wrong direction and turn back. I see a group of walkers coming towards me. Desperately, I ask them if they have seen a woman with a blue top. But it’s no good. I return to the main road. I must be imagining things, I think. She’s probably popped behind a hedge to pick blackberries and I’ve run past her in panic. So I take a deep breath and try to calm down. I concentrate on checking if there is anywhere on the main road where she could have disappeared from my sight. At the same time, I try to think if there is anything that I have missed, anything odd about my wife’s behaviour before we started the walk.

I reflect that she has been under a lot of strain since her closest friend, Heather, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died within weeks. That was 3 months ago; naturally, she’s been very tearful and she’s had some counselling too. But this last week she seemed to be a lot more upbeat. I continue walking back down the main road until I arrive home.

My wife is not at home. I find a screwed up letter in the waste paper bin from the counselling service she was attending. In the letter they ask why she only attended one session and explain that they are really concerned for her well-being. I pick up the phone and ring the police to report her missing.

Suspense

More details to follow

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