Early on in their correspondence, Bethan Roberts set BHASVIC students a task all about location, and using the senses to write about it. Here’s her letter;
My Policeman is set in Brighton, which is my adopted home town, and one of the great pleasures and challenges of writing it was recreating the experience of being in the town for my reader. First, I want you to write down three things you think of when you think of your home town. If you come from somewhere that isn’t Brighton, please feel free to use that place. You can also pretend that you come from somewhere else, if you like (New Orleans. The Gobi Desert. The Moon…). The things can be as big or small as you like, but they should be as specific as possible, and they should be based on the senses — so think about how your home town looks, smells, feels, sounds, or even tastes. You might think, for example, of the dried-blood colour of the rust that forms on the metal legs of the benches on the seafront. Or the smell of coffee and pastries and old beer on the corner of Sydney Street. Or the crunchy sound of pebbles beneath your boots. Once you’ve got these, your challenge is to write a piece which begins with the words ‘I was home again’ and includes all three descriptions. Before you start, though, give your narrator a task. Why have they come home? Where are they headed, exactly? Who are they going to see, and why? Now set them on a journey towards their goal, through their home town. Bethan
And here are some short extracts from the fantastic pieces of work the students came up with in response:
B wrote: I was home again, and the air-conditioned airport atmosphere I became used to was now beautifully forgotten as the city air filled my lungs. Stepping through the barrier at Bristol Temple Meads Station, I moved from my prior life of travel back to my childhood; the train ticket was my pass home and once it disappeared into the slot, and I looked up, a wave of nostalgia reminded me of what I once adored. Under my feet the cobbly pavement felt like the yellow brick road and I felt a sense of familiarity, as I remembered the streets of Venice. Like a warm breeze, the light scent of coffee oozed out of the cafes as me my suitcase marched towards Park street, past the hundreds of traffic lights.
Bethan commented; B – I recognised Bristol from your lovely sense-based descriptions, and enjoyed walking the streets with your narrator. I could smell that coffee!
M wrote: I was home again. There was a relief yet melancholy about it as Brighton wasn’t the same again. Even though it was slap bang in the middle of summer, there was no smell of beer, sweat or even barbecue smoke on the beach; something that used to be regular. Although those smells were discomforting at the least, there was also a certain comfort about them and the fact that they weren’t there made the feeling of being home so much more worse. As well as that the aroma of coffee had completely dissipated, something that used to be normal at every corner that you turn in the lanes.
Bethan commented; M – yours was a really fascinating piece: I want to know exactly what’s happened to our beloved Brighton…? I love the feeling of loss and longing that pervades this piece, and the way you evoke an eerie disappeared world.
Wonderful work BHASVIC!