Saturday 31 December 2011

2011: An amazing year for Greenacre Writers

We’ve had a busy year and are proud of what we‘ve achieved!

The year began with entries coming in for our our first short story competition. Numbers increased as the closing date of 31st March loomed, with a flurry in the last two days. We received stories from all over the country but many came from North London owing to word of mouth. Reading every entry began in earnest for long-listing the best 25. We then went through these in detail - with a few reasoned arguments - to select the short-list of 10, ending up with 12 for our judge, Lianne Kolirin, to make the final decision. The winners were announced on 9th May. Congratulations to all the selected entrants.

Work began on the first Greenacre Writers Anthology which was published in September 2011. Comprising the six winning stories from the competition and nine stories from our Greenacre Writers membership, it is a mixture of story genres and we’ve had some great feedback. If you have a copy, please let us know which were your favourite stories and if you would like a copy, please contact us.

Our Creative Writing workshops have continued, with the first, ‘Have You Lost the Plot?’ in February followed by two in May, which were part of ‘Trinity in May’ Arts Festival in North Finchley. ‘Ways into Writing’ and ‘Life Writing’ both attracted a number of new faces to our workshops some of whom have become paid up members. Our most recent event was the ‘Short Story’ workshop in November.

The regular groups have continued to thrive, resulting in Finish That Novel having a waiting list so we launched the second FTN in September making a total of four groups - the two novel groups, a short story group and the Memoir and Autobiography Club.

Our members have enjoyed writing successes with both founder members, Lindsay Bamfield and Rosie Canning, having work published in Mslexia. Lindsay also won second place in a Writers News short story competition with her story Sad Old Man that she had asked fellow members to critique, as well as winning a competition for her novel’s pitch. Anna Meryt’s poem Bulawayo won first prize in Excel for Charity’s poetry competition. Liz Goes has been busy promoting her second novel The Cosmopolites, while Linda Louisa Dell published and has been marketing her book of short stories The Story Tree.

It has been a rewarding year and here’s to hoping for continued Greenacre Writers’ success to continue in 2012.

All of the books are available through Amazon or directly from the authors. See our links.

Thursday 10 November 2011


Our FIRST anthology is back from the printers - HURRAH!!!!

If you have already paid for a copy of the anthology, it will be in the post this weekend. If you'd like to order a copy it is £7.99. Send a cheque/postal order for £7.99 payable to Greenacre Writers, 25 Chislehurst Avenue, London N12 0HU.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Short Story Workshop

Greenacre Writers invite you to a Creative Writer’s Afternoon:
Short Story Workshop. Dramatic, strange, dangerous happenings with twists, rock stars, remembrance and romance. Intrigued? Come along and find out more.
Saturday 12th November 2011 2.00pm - 5.00pm
Chislehurst Avenue, Finchley, London N12

The workshop will introduce you to the skills needed to think and write a short story – suitable for beginners. The aim of the afternoon is to meet fellow creative writers, to work on creative writing exercises, and share your work to receive supportive feedback and ideas in a friendly and stimulating environment.

There will be a small charge to include refreshments:
Members £5; Non-members £10
(Cheques payable to: Greenacre Writers - cancellation available up until 7 days before the event)

For further information or to reserve a place contact:

From Thunderbirds to Pterodactyls

Greenacre Project and Greenacre Writers present:

Join us for an evening of film and fun.
Tuesday 29th November 7.30pm.

Shane Rimmer has featured in over 50 films and was the voice for Scott Tracy of Thunderbirds. This event combines film extracts and fascinating autobiographical insights. Shane will talk about the ideas behind his latest autobiography: 'From Thunderbirds to Pterodactyls', and about the writing process.

Trinity Church, 15 Nether Street,
North Finchley, London N12 7NN.

Suggested donation: £3.00

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Congratulations to Anna Meryt

Anna is on the Excel for Charity Wall of Honour.

Excel for Charity is an international writing competitions series run by Eastern Light EPM International raising money for charities whilst rewarding creative excellence with cash prizes and literary honour.

Well done Anna!!!!

You can find out more about Excel by clicking on this link: Excell Charity Wall of Honour

See the winning poem here: Anna Meryt

Monday 10 October 2011

Eliza Jane Goes at a recent book signing

Liz, one of the Greenacre Writer Members, recently visited Moray and Nairn to attend a book signing.

You can find out more about her novels by clicking on this link: Eliza Jane Goes Ahead
Fantastic stuff Liz, keep on writing.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Congratulations to Lindsay Bamfield

Congratulations Lindsay on your recent monologue published in Mslexia (51) p.46. It was a very moving piece and you got the voice of the child perfectly. Well done.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Short Story Workshop

Greenacre Writers invite you to a Creative Writer’s Afternoon:
Short Story Workshop
Saturday 12th November 2011 2.00pm - 5.00pm
Chislehurst Avenue, Finchley, London N12

The workshop will introduce you to the skills needed to think and write a short story – suitable for beginners. The aim of the afternoon is to meet fellow creative writers, to work on creative writing exercises, and share your work to receive supportive feedback and ideas in a friendly and stimulating environment.

There will be a small charge to include refreshments:
Members £5; Non-members £10
(Cheques payable to: Greenacre Writers - cancellation available up until 7 days before the event)

For further information or to reserve a place contact:

Monday 19 September 2011

Are you writing a novel?

Are you writing a novel? Would you like to meet fellow writers and get some feedback about your work?

Greenacre Writers have a second 'Finish That Novel' that runs monthy on Monday evenings at 7.00pm (the 3rd Monday of the month) The group will run on similar lines to our existing group, and is for those who are already working on novels (not just planning one!).

Please let us know if you are interested.

For those who are not already in a GW group we do request you send in a sample of writing.


Friday 12 August 2011

A Little Success

We'd like to congratulate Lindsay Bamfield, one of the Greenacre Writers, who has just won Authonomy's The Pitch Writing Competition. The competition was launched last month for authonomy authors. The premise? Pitch your novels – Authonomy selected the strongest pitch and the author will receive personal writing advice from bestselling women’s fiction author, Claudia Carroll, based on the first 20,000 words of that novel. After lots of toing and froing, Claudia and the authonomy team managed to whittle down to 5 finalists, and after some more whittling, one overall winner and four runners up were chosen.

We’re delighted to announce that the winning pitch was Do Not Exceed Fifty, by Lindsay Bamfield.

Here’s what Claudia had to say about making the decision: I had a great time reading through all the pitches, and I have to tell you, selecting a 'favourite' really was an incredibly tough job! The standard was unbelievably high and after a LOT of deliberation, I narrowed it down to two; then spent the weekend mulling it all over in my mind. Anyway, at the end of the day, I really thought there was one absolute stand-out and that was DO NOT EXCEED FIFTY by Lindsay Bamfield. The criteria I used to make the final choice was, which pitch would immediately make me want to run out and buy the book? And Lindsay's pitch was not only fresh and totally original, but also I thought totally unlike anything else that's out there at the moment.

Do Not Exceed Fifty - Pitch

It’s not thirty-something chick-lit, or forty-something mummy-lit. This is grown-up fifty-something, thinking-more-about-menopause-lit. Meno-lit has arrived.

Independent as she is, Xanthe, 50, divorced with an empty nest, would quite like to have someone special in her life, and more to the point someone who thinks she’s special. But it’s no good sitting patiently waiting for gorgeous, single, fifty-something men to turn up like buses, she has to go out and hunt. Which is why Xanthe discovers the horrors of speed dating, dining clubs and Internet dating sites. At least something good comes out of it - she meets Maggie, and they can compare and share the ups and downs of life and dating at fifty. Older women still have it, but flaunting it is just that bit harder.

Aimed at young-hearted older women who are fed up with ageism, and bored of reading about ditsy young things or the trials and tribulations of women who think they are the first to raise teenagers, this novel is for women who want heroines of their own age who don’t have it all. Funny and wry, Do Not Exceed Fifty follows Xanthe on her dating quest, discarding hopeless cases: men who want women to cook for them; men with moustaches and men who have only just left home as she goes.

Congratulations Lindsay.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Memoir and Autobiography Club

Greenacre Writers are planning a Memoir & Autobiography Club to
commence Tuesday 26th July. It will run alternate months on Tuesday evenings at 7.00pm (the 4th Tuesday of the month) The group is for those who are already working on memoir or autobiography.

Membership is £10 per year and will be on a 'first come, first in' basis!
So please let us know if you are interested.

For those who are not already in a GW group we do request you send in
a sample of writing.


Wednesday 8 June 2011

Finish That Novel2

Greenacre Writers are planning a second 'Finish That Novel' group to commence on Monday 18th July. It will run monthy on Monday evenings at 7.00pm (the 3rd Monday of the month) The group will run on similar lines to our existing group, and is for those who are already working on novels (not just planning one!). As places are limited, membership will be on a 'first come, first in' basis! So please let us know if you are interested.

For those who are not already in a GW group we do request you send in a sample of writing.


Saturday 28 May 2011

Third Prize Winner

Coffee with an Old Friend

By Natasha Mirzoian.

I had been thinking of you for a few days and as always when I think of you, you ring. So in a way I was expecting the call, but not your news.

The fear is a hand wrapped around my throat making my voice sound different as we speak. I know that if I take a deep breath then as I exhale the fingers will tighten, crushing harder. So since our conversation I carry on with my daily tasks taking only small shallow breaths that leave me slightly light-headed. I unload the dishwasher and then load it again with dirty plates, wipe down the kitchen surfaces with a rag and take the chicken out of the freezer. I notice that the plants on my windowsill are all dying. I over-water the parched earth, out of guilt. Water pouring down the sides of the clay pots like dirty tears, hoping that by over compensating I might bring them back to life.

I haven’t seen you in nearly a year. I thought you would look thin and pale and withered, yet you are rounder and your skin has colour. Before our meeting I worry. What should I say? What will you say? I want to hide, unable to cope with such adult themes.

But it is just like the old times. Except we have a new topic of conversation. Your voice is steady and fluid as you tell me about the horrors you had endured in the last five months. I’m aware that my eyes are large as I listen and I try to make them smaller. We discuss it all calmly, our voices soft, as we sip our steaming cappuccinos in Starbucks. I wonder briefly if you should be drinking coffee but I can’t bring myself to ask. I poke with my spoon at the marshmallows in my coffee, suddenly feeling like a child for choosing them, they have become brown ugly lumps bobbing in my drink. I notice that your lips are blistered and you blow on your coffee to cool it before you can take a sip.

As I listen my eyes wander to the family sitting a few tables away. They are American and excited to be on holiday. The mother manages to manoeuvre and conduct three noisy children and one tired-looking husband with the ease of someone who is used to juggling many things at once. She has a ruddy complexion and sun-parched blonde hair making her look like she spends all her days outdoors in the sun. I notice her eyes soften as she watches over her brood, who have settled down, momentarily pacified by brownies and hot chocolates. She catches my look and smiles. To her we appear ordinary. Two young women drinking overpriced coffee and casually discussing our jobs, but if she only looked closer she might notice how my hand shakes as I stir my coffee with a spoon while you talk or that your blunt brown fringe is slightly askew underneath your hat. Her mind is elsewhere as she wipes dribbling chocolate from chubby cheeks with one hand and smooths down a crumpled but carefully written-out list of places still left to visit with the other.

We talk for hours; even laughter finds it way through our conversation as you describe your stays in hospital. I laugh cautiously aware that it may change into something else if I don’t keep it in check; hilarity and hysteria can often blur into one. As I wait at the counter for our third round of coffees to be served I examine the pastries under a glass display distractedly. I feel a trembling throughout my body, like a buzzing travelling through my blood. I think that if I place my finger on the glass it might vibrate. I don’t look back at you as I wait for my order, not wanting you to catch me staring. Even though that’s exactly what I want to do, to examine you from a distance.

‘Would you like anything else with your coffee?’ The waiter asks. His smile reaches all the way to his brown eyes, his teeth white and healthy. ‘A Danish pastry, maybe?’

I look back at you, catching your eye, and point to the cake displays. You tilt your head and for a second I remember you from eleven years before, sitting cross-legged in our student kitchen in your pale pink pyjamas eating a cream horn with icing sugar on top, the cream spilling out from one end as you bit into the other. I remember watching in jealous awe as you devoured desserts without ever gaining a pound, while the rest of us stuck to coffee and cigarettes. The look of pure delight just before you bit into it, in anticipation of the taste, a look close to love. I point at the Danish, a swirl of icing and dough with a bright hopeful cherry on top. You smile and shake your head.

‘No, thank you.’

He is still watching me. ‘Maybe next time.’

As he places the change in my hand his fingers touch the flesh of my palm. He is young and sweet. I glance back at our table, you’re fiddling with your hat, pulling it lower over your forehead, pulling gently at the stiff hair strands that stick out from underneath it, re-adjusting things before I return. Then I look back to his easy smile that rolls off his tanned face like soft butter off a knife; he is somewhere else, on a different plain from where we are.

‘Maybe.’ It comes out sharper than I intended. I grab the tray, turning my back on him and return to you, crossing worlds as I walk towards our table and sit down.

While you talk I study you, your dark eyes glow with a fever of something. I can’t tell what it is, maybe just the drugs that you’re on. I can’t help but remember hearing about a ritual in one of my anthropology classes from years ago. I cannot recall where it happened, it may have been in a remote village in the Caucasus, or a rite of passage in Ancient Greece or it may have been a particular tribe in Africa. The time and place has left my memory, but the story remained.

At a certain time every year all the girls who had reached the age of maturity were gathered together and presented with a clay bowl filled with stones from which they each picked one. There were exactly the same amount of pebbles in the bowl as there were girls, half of the stones were a milky white and half were a polished black. As the girls each blindly picked a stone their future would be sealed. The girl who pulled out the white stone became instantly elevated in her position within the community, she would be sought after as a wife and would have her choice of suitors, a life guaranteed free of hard labour and forced marriage. The girls who chose the black stones were destined to be servants, their life would be of hard work and service, forced to do anything that was required of them. They accepted their new position in the community’s hierarchy without questioning. All girls were prepared for either paths before they pulled out the coloured stones. Sometimes friends were separated in this way, sometimes sisters were divided as one was forced to serve the other within their household. The interesting thing was that nobody argued with their fate. They believed that the stone’s colour had come to each of them for a reason. Feelings of unfairness or injustice did not plague the girls’ thoughts, the way they would ours. They lived with pure acceptance.

As I look into your eyes I wonder if that is what I am seeing in them. Is it acceptance of your fate that gives them that strange glow? I swallow hard, feeling my own pebble stick in my throat.

To my relief by the end of the evening our conversation does turn to jobs and boyfriends, topics that indicate we are still part of the everyday, the mundane. We are just as we were before. We discuss everything, except the prognosis. And even as we gather our things to leave you don’t offer this information so I do not demand it. It is yours to give. Yet when I hug you goodbye I hold you longer than usual, pressing you to my chest in an awkward way. I want you to feel my solidity, to know that I am here. Or maybe it is just my way of trying to overcompensate, to revive you after a period of neglect, like my plants.

‘I’ll see you soon,’ you say, generously.

As you rush off to catch you train it begins to drizzle and I realise that I left my umbrella in the coffee shop. I go back to our table alone. It hasn’t been cleared yet and the sight of our cups on the table stops me in my tracks. At first I think it is a different table, but then I spot my umbrella underneath it. It seems impossible that those cups belonged to us just a few moments ago, but the smudge of my lipstick on the white ceramic confirms this. I think of you catching your train and how my thoughts had turned to other things so quickly and yet our round cups are still here sitting in their saucers, frozen as time moves around them. Once again I feel like I have crossed plains. Hurriedly I grab the umbrella from under the table and step outside without looking back, just as the rain really starts to fall hard.

Friday 27 May 2011

Creative Writing Workshop Tomorrow

The Greenacre Writers invite you to a Creative Writer’s Afternoon - this is part of the Trinity in May - Art, Drama, and Music - a series of events held at Trinity Church in North Finchley:

Life Writing Workshop
Saturday 28th May 2011

2.00pm - 5.00pm
Trinity Church
London N12

The workshops will introduce you to the skills needed to think and write creatively.
The aim of the afternoons are to meet with fellow creative writers, to work on creative writing exercises, share your work to receive supportive feedback and ideas in a friendly and stimulating environment.

Workshops are free but we are raising money for the Greenacre Bicycle Rally (Sunday 12th June).
Suggested donation: £5

If you require more information either e-mail:
or contact:
Rosie (MA Writing) on 020 8346 9449
Lindsay (BA Hons Literature) on 020 8343 7181

Sunday 22 May 2011

Second prize winner

The Bread

By Sal Page

‘Don’t just look at it – eat it. Come on, Robbie. Why do you have to be so slow?’

He tried to speak. Although he’d not taken a bite yet, he felt as if his throat was full of bread already, bread that didn’t want to go down. His voice came out dry and squeaky.

‘It’s him’.


He’d been staring at it forever. On the other side there’d been an organised street plan with plots of blurred leopard skin along the edges, like Auntie Jude’s coat. Then, on this side, the usual burnt brown bubbles and wild craters gave way to mysterious swirling mists and creases and scabby as-white-his-knees patches. And right in the middle of his bread was Dad’s face.

Robbie swallowed whatever it was stuck in his throat. His voice emerged clearer the second time. He pointed at the face.

‘It’s him.’

‘What are you on about now?’

It was unmistakably Dad, hair parted to the left, brown-rimmed glasses and the half-laughing expression was right too. It had been five weeks since Robbie had seen him but he hadn’t forgotten.

Mum peered over his shoulder. Robbie had a rush of confusion when she began to pay her full attention to the bread. She snatched up her phone, thumb stabbing at the buttons. He took a tiny bite from the edge of the bread, put it back on the plate, then wondered if he should have done that.

‘Leave the bread. Just eat the curry, babe.’ Mum pulled it away from the dollop of chicken Korma. A splash of sauce followed and landed on his school reading book.

‘No Jude, just Sainsbury’s Naan. Not even the luxury brand. Yeah, bog standard, like you always say. Unless that’s just for toilet rolls.’

Mum, nodding and ‘uhuhing’ at whatever Auntie Jude was saying, turned away from Robbie and placed the bread on the work surface. She tucked the phone under her chin and grabbed the cling film from the top of the cupboard.

‘I’m ringing the paper, definitely. Yeah, yeah, yeah, but this one’s better than all those. Seriously, Jude, you’ve got to see it. I’m looking at it right now. It’s really spooky. Come round. No, I’m sure it’s not Michael Jackson. Ok, see you.’

She stuck the phone in her back pocket, ‘Eat up, Rob.’

Robbie lifted a forkful that hovered in the air above his plate as he looked over at Mum. She reeled a piece of cling film from the roll too fast, cursing as she tried to tear it off. That weird tingly magic, a bit like he sometimes felt pulling his jumper over his head, curled it and stuck it to itself. Robbie got up to help. He was better at this than Mum because it was one job where being in a rush didn’t help. He put his hands out to take it off her but she peeled the cling film off her fingers and waved it onto the floor.

She flipped open, and slammed shut, the cupboards one by one. She pulled out the biscuit tin, tipping the Penguins and Kit Kats out. They slid and raced along the work surface, one yellow Penguin winning by nearly reaching the kettle. She banged three times on the bottom of the tin, shooting out a spray of crumbs from biscuits long ago eaten and forgotten about. Robbie was wondering if any of them were from Dad’s digestives and malted milks when Auntie Jude burst in the front door.

‘Let’s see it then.’

A lady with a camera came early next morning and took lots of pictures. She asked them to point at the bread and look surprised. Auntie Jude wanted to be in the photo as well so they all squashed onto the sofa. Robbie was pleased his Dad was going to be famous. Lots of different people visited the flat. They had more visitors in a day than they usually had in a year. They all wanted to see the bread, now safe inside one of the plastic boxes from Dad’s Christmas chocolates. Robbie could look through the lid and see Dad’s face looking out. His own teeth marks spoilt one side. Mum was talking to a man who was sitting on their sofa, writing quickly into a notebook.

‘I’m a single mother. I lost my husband quite recently.’

Robbie sat by the window. He wondered why, if his Dad was lost somewhere, he didn’t just ask someone the way. And why didn’t Mum go and look for him? The last time he’d seen his Dad had been at that odd smelling place with the thin scratchy carpet. What had it smelt like? Grey meat and something toilety. Maybe Dad was still there, sitting on the saggy sofa with the others, the television on but no sound coming out.

He remembered coming back on the bus, deciding not to think about it anymore. He hadn’t done very well at that but he’d tried. He looked outside. Shame there were no clouds. He loved looking at clouds. It was all blue except for a fading to pale cream on that line beyond the far side of the park. Two startlingly straight trails from an aeroplane bridged the sky. They were cloudy but nothing like real clouds. They soon lost their preciseness, expanding and dispersing into the blue. Soon it was as if they were never there.

‘It’s on Youtube now. Everyone’s talking about it. We’ve gone world-wide.’

Later, a man with a television camera and lots of busy people with phones and clipboards filled the flat. Robbie kept getting in the way, being elbowed out of the way and then getting in the same people’s way all over again. Auntie Jude had repeated the story so often, it had started to sound boring. The story of first seeing the bread had begun to sound like lines from a song they had sung over and over till they’d forgotten what the words meant.

‘It was just an ordinary packet of Naan bread, nothing special. From the big Sainsbury’s. I nearly bought poppadums instead.’

They’d stopped mentioning Robbie, which seemed strange since it was his bread and his Dad. His part had been taken over by Auntie Jude. New people were coming to the flat every day, some of them camping in the park. He heard them singing at night. They came to the door and asked to see the bread. There was so much talking in the flat since they’d found it that he hardly ever had a long sleep anymore, just snatches here and there. His head felt as if it was full of clouds and his eyes itched. Auntie Jude seemed to have moved in. Some of her clothes were hung in Robbie’s wardrobe and she spent a long time in the bathroom.

Robbie got up in the night and wandered into the kitchen where Mum and Auntie Jude were still up and chatting.

‘I can’t tell Rob the truth.’ Mum was saying, sipping her hot chocolate, ‘I just let him think he’s gone away. Whatever’s gone on between us, I don’t want Rob thinking Jack …’ she stopped when she saw Robbie at the door.

‘All right, babe? We thought you were asleep. Want my marshmallows?’

Another film crew arrived the next day, just as Robbie was coming in from school. He let them in and knew from their accents they were from America. He could hear Auntie Jude talking in the living room.

‘And when people stop paying for pictures and interviews we could sell it on ebay. How much do you reckon we’d get?’ then, when she noticed the film crew she pasted a big grin on her face and said ‘Hi’.

There seemed to be even more people in the flat now, as the story was told yet again. Robbie decided to keep out of the way and walked outside. He crossed the road to the park, looking both ways like Dad always told him. He walked into the playground, climbed the ladder of the slide and sat in the puddle at the top. He didn’t care that the water seeped into his jeans. He looked up.

Several bulging white-topped mountains had built up. He couldn’t help staring out at them and their random, ever-changing patterns. They were moving fast today, changing shape and, in front of them, greyer, thinner clouds travelled across pretending to be smoke.

He’d watched them from his classroom window all morning. They had distracted him from his maths. Mr. Crosby said ‘wakey, wakey, Robbie!’ in that somewhere between singing and teasing voice of his. Robbie knew they all laughed because they felt glad they weren’t getting it this time. He shook his head because he didn’t want to remember the time Mr. Crosby told him to pull his socks up and he did pull his socks up. He’d felt sick when the whole class laughed at how stupid he was. That made him feel like he might as well start acting stupid to prove them all right.

Robbie heard voices. Everyone was coming outside and crossing over to the park. The clouds continued their performance of shifting, expanding and swelling up further. He stretched out a hand, a small part of his brain believing maybe he could reach one this time, pull it down and use it for a pillow, pour strawberry sauce over it or float it in an enormous mug of hot chocolate for Mum. At the same time he knew this was impossible.

He glanced back at Mum and Auntie Jude, surrounded by the film crew and all the visitors and the people hanging around in the park. In the second that he‘d looked away from the clouds something had changed. None of the others had noticed what he was looking at. The biggest cloud Robbie had ever seen appeared to fill the whole of the sky and right in the centre Dad’s face, just like on the bread, slowly flowed into focus.

Monday 16 May 2011

First prize winner

I dreamt of love.

By Michael Marett-Crosby

I dream of being decent, practise smiling at a wife. I make a village from the lumps and scars across my wall. I take walks there in my mind. I notice – no one rings the cops. Later I meet with some friends. We drink but not too much.

While all the time I know I am a tomb, my headstone carved. He was in prison from birth, is what it says. So I go through whole months lost in unlived lives. Sometimes a week can pass without my meeting me at all.

But there was one day when I dreamt of love.

‘Take a half hour outside, Lomax.’

The officers were often kind, banged up as much as we were. This one was an alright sort – sometimes he even smiled. Today he opened the wing door for me and called out, ‘Close it behind you.’ He had already turned back to real life on Jeremy Kyle.

I should explain. I am a womble. That’s prison talk for someone who clears trash. Guys throw stuff from their windows, anything they can, a way of unmaking the home-spell of this place. Wombling is reckoned a rank job but I got paid. The best part is that I get outside alone.

Outside. Alone. There are no words for what that does to me. I walked the grass around our wing, conjuring unlikely lives. First I had a Cadillac waiting for me at the gate. I even tried, ‘Hi, Mum,’ but that was too far, too hard. Eventually I settled into one of my favourites, a prison governor who told me, ‘Lomax, we’ve got your sentence wrong. You have been an innocent for your whole life.’

And it was while I grinned into this kindly world that I saw that the gate into the main rec. yard was open.

I looked around. It was nothing new that this prison was chaos. We were the so-whats, neither kids nor nonces, not a single famous killer among us. This was just a warehouse for the storage of unwanted men.

Still, it was stupid to have left the yard unlocked. It was all territory, this group and that, lines invisible but you got hurt if you did not see and obey them. I had no gang, I had no land. I would not have even gone in there except with my womble kit to show I didn’t matter. I had black bin bags. I wore gloves. The prison issued a metal claw for scooping up syringes.

I looked. I crossed through the doorway. For the first time, it was all mine. I thought of that moment in Titanic – I could stretch out my arms and own the whole vast sea.

Around the yard ran a fence. To lean against it was the nearest we could get to freedom. During outdoor association, only the dealers hung out here, and they would not care for a womble standing happy on their turf. But they were all inside. I walked into their sacred place. I put out a hand and felt the mesh. It was cold and thin and meagre, fag-ends flicked through to the farther side. I took out my womble’s claw and pulled one in. It proved something – Paul Lomax, 500486, had just made the world a better place.

That alone would have been magic to last me many days. But it was only the beginning. For it was then – I swear it’s true – then that I saw him.


Christ knows how he got there. Double Christ knows why. There was a crop of cigarette ends and some lumps of frozen gum. Slim pickings for anyone, especially for him. I mean, he was a rabbit, after all.

He stared at me. I stared at him. I picked him up. He shook. He might have dropped a pellet but I knew I had been made of shit since the age of four, people had told me. The rabbit thought to jump away; I felt his muscles tense. But I’d learnt well how to keep a prisoner. C&R, they called it, Control and Restraint. I made a cuff round his neck with my fingers and then shoved the rabbit into my black bin bag. He kicked out like a mad thing, like a guy locked in a van. We all punched and screamed the first few times. So now I kept the rabbit tight, the way officers did with new guys. I made my way back to the door. I was let in without a glance.

We were not allowed pets, the sort of thing that made the papers: Prison animals keep animals, what a disgrace. A few guys fed cell rats or mice. A couple talked to spiders. I told no one of the rabbit. No one asked.

That evening, I skipped dinner. I was busy with my rabbit. I had only made a start when Corbett hammered on my doors. ‘There’s going to be a fight,’ he called. ‘There’s going to be a fight.’ I wondered what it was today: football, probably, or drugs, maybe a lad with have-me eyes. Normally I would have gone to watch. There was nothing else to do. But tonight I had to process the new inmate.

Where to start? As at Reception – name, age, offence and religion. That was all prison needed so as to know a man right through.

The rabbit’s name was easy. ‘Hello, Real,’ I said, Real because he was real. That was that.

‘Age?’ I looked at him. In that foul time when the mind is old with knowing while the body still looks fresh. That made Real vulnerable. I would shack him with a trusted cellmate. ‘You’re in with Lomax,’ I told him. ‘He’s ok.’

Real did not seem that pleased. He was finding prison grim – first night is tough. He’d been scooped up without the bother of a court. He had not known that he was guilty until he got here. He might have been thinking about what he had lost. ‘Your past is simple,’ I told him. ‘Everything you’ve ever done is criminal intent.’ As for his future – he was an offender now and then an ex-offender for ever.

‘Your crime is that you got close to this place,’ I said. ‘I’m sorry.’

Finally, I drew a mental line through the box marked religion. No god and we were done, Real was sent down.

His eyes were dull. ‘You’re a natural,’ I said. ‘Here, try some food.’

He sniffed at it. ‘It tastes of other people’s fingers,’ I explained. Real had a nibble and it wasn’t rain-washed grass. But then again it wasn’t all that bad, not really. ‘There,’ I said, ‘that’s your next lesson. We live – it’s a lot of the problem here.’

Sharing a cell took some learning. Real wasn’t sure where he should go. Last night he might have kipped with other rabbits, sex and all. ‘Not here,’ I said and put him in a box of legal papers. I tore up my last appeal to make a nest.

Bang-up came and went. I tried to watch some telly. One channel showed clever cops. The others were all laughter. I checked on Real and he was sleeping, curled into a ball. ‘You were born for this,’ I said. I knew we would be friends.

I had the psych on Wednesday. Real came as well. ‘This is my rabbit,’ I told her. She did not ask how I had found him. ‘He is called Real. Do you know why?’

‘I think I do.’

‘Go on then.’

She paused. Speaking outside the covers of her manual was not natural for her. ‘I think Real’s called Real,’ she said slowly, ‘because he’s real, the only thing you’ve got that isn’t poisoned by prison. Also, Real needs you to stay alive for him. He shows you’re real.’

I went mental at that. There’s decent violence on my form. Except I didn’t fight. I cried. ‘Bog off.’ I spoke through tears. ‘I don’t know why I come to see you. People like you, trying to give me stuff to live for, you’ve wrecked my life.’

That is the truth. I would have had less pain if I’d not known brief kindnesses.

But the psych had not finished. ‘I think you should keep Real, Paul,’ she said. ‘Keep him alive. Find life yourself. This could save you.’ She added this last bit as if it was something worth doing.

I had been serving prison time since I was sixteen. But that day I believed her. I forgot the rule that binds us – never love.

Actually, that isn’t right. It is okay to love but prison loves must always be dead first: girls out of my past who don’t remember me, dreams of big-breasted future conquests I will never have. It is the same with drug lads selling themselves in the showers. All we have in here is necrophilia.

But I grew to love Real Rabbit. Love – I was not complete without him. Love – he made sense of my day. Love – that Rabbit stayed awake with me through many empty nights.

Real lived in my world. He got used to my pad. I’d pick him up last thing at night and that was deep magic, Real was alive because I made him so.

There was a guy called Ashley. I started to get on with him. It was as if I’d learnt from Real how to make a friend. Ashley was ok, pretty much the same as me.

Then word came of a release scheme, Ashley a possible because he wasn’t down for violence. He only hurt himself. So now he hoped, and so did I, that he was going to walk. Then we got caught inside the story, talked of nothing else.

Then someone changed the rules. There’s been a campaign in the press. Ashley and a bunch of guys became dangerous again. New words were spoken, Indeterminate Protection of the Public. No one knew what they meant. Ashley went for himself that night, as I knew he would.

I heard the night patrol. Then came the shouts and then the bells and then the pounding feet. I’ve got to give it to those guys, they try to keep us breathing.

Real was scared. He set to shaking. I tried to help him understand. ‘These walls drip sickness into us,’ I said. ‘But you and me, we’ve got each other. We will be alright.’ Real’s eyes had a black sparkle. I thought that he might talk.

Ashley survived. He’d only slashed himself. The POs patched him up. One of them came to my cell the next morning, said I could help.

‘What with?’ I asked.

‘With Ashley. He’s your mate.’

I was proud. I remembered what that psych had said. Real needs you to stay alive for him. Now Ashley too.

That morning I lent Real to Ashley. He held the rabbit in his arms. ‘You care, don't you,’ he said.

‘I really do.’

A screw gave Ash a bar of chocolate from the out. That was good of him.

Two doses of goodness at once? It would kill any one of us.

Ashley fed Real the chocolate. It messed up his insides. I watched Real puke up brown stuff as the life jerked out of him.

I stood there, nothing I could do. By lunchtime Real was meat. I walked the yard that afternoon during general rec., wondering if Real might come back to me. I passed a crowd and I heard Ashley. He was talking up my story. ‘Crazy Lomax, guess what? He’s been talking to a rabbit.’ The guys laughed.

If I’d had any guts, I would have topped myself that day. You love in here and you are finished, finished – I should have known. But I did not have the guts. I live. I live. Don’t read this any more. Leave me alone.

Michael Marett-Crosby worked in the UK prison system and based this story on someone he knew well during this time. "When the events of this story had worked their course, much as they do in the story," says Michael, "I promised him I would one day tell it to other people. 'Why?' he wanted to know. 'Who would be interested?' I don't know where he is now. Prison life is like that. People move and they do not hang on to yesterdays, there being too many tomorrows."

Since leaving the prison service, Michael has been working full time as a writer, mostly on a novel set in a British prison, Two Thirds Man. He has also won other competetions and has published three works of non-fiction.

Monday 9 May 2011

And the Winner is.....

Congratulations to the winners of the first Greenacre Short Story competition.

1st prize: I Dreamt of Love by Michael Marett-Crosby

2nd prize: The Bread by Sal Page

3rd prize: Coffee with an Old Friend by Natasha Mirzoian

The three runners-up are:

Weening by Andrew Dutton

Terminal by Katherine McLean

Moving Forward by Andrew Blackman

Many thanks to judge, Lianne Kolirin.

Saturday 7 May 2011

The Short List

Here is the short-list of the Greenacre Writers Short Story Competition.
Congratulations to all the writers.

The Bread
Dead Wood
Fleeting Memories
The Plough and the Stars
Potatoes on the Bus
Climbing the Walls
Coffee with an Old Friend
Moving Forward
The Photograhper's Tale
I Dreamt of Love

Monday 2 May 2011

The Long-list

The Greenacre Writers Short Story Competition long-list has been selected. After careful reading and analysis of all the entries, 25 stories have been long-listed. In no particular order the story names are below. The author names will not appear at this stage.

The Bread
Soldier Blue
Are We Nearly There?
Tiger Patrol
Dead Wood
Edward Henley
The Stick Ape
Fleeting Memories
The Plough and the Stars
Potatoes on the Bus
The Box
Climbing the Walls
Coffee with an Old Friend
The Last Word
Moving Forward
The Photograhper's Tale
The Piano Tuner
Josie and the Dragon
I Dreamt of Love
Spirit of the Wheatfields
The Shadow
The Granny Napper's Tale

Please see our Greenacre Project Facebook page and 'like' us!

Saturday 9 April 2011

Creative Writing Workshops

The Greenacre Writers invite you to a Creative Writer’s Afternoon - this is part of the Trinity in May - Art, Drama, and Music - a series of events held at Trinity Church in North Finchley:

Ways into Creative Writing
Saturday 14th May 2011

Life Writing Workshop
Saturday 28th May 2011

2.00pm - 5.00pm
Trinity Church
London N12

The workshops will introduce you to the skills needed to think and write creatively.
The aim of the afternoons are to meet with fellow creative writers, to work on creative writing exercises, share your work to receive supportive feedback and ideas in a friendly and stimulating environment.

Workshops are free but we are raising money for the Greenacre Bicycle Rally (Sunday 12th June).
Suggested donation: £5

If you require more information either e-mail:
or contact:
Rosie (MA Writing) on 020 8346 9449
Lindsay (BA Hons Literature) on 020 8343 7181

Thursday 31 March 2011

Greenacre Writers' Competition is now CLOSED

The Greenacre Writers' short story competition is now closed. We have had lots of entries and look forward to reading through and choosing the long and short list. Well done and good luck to every one who entered. The results will be published here 14th May.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Still time to write a winning entry!

There is still two months until Greenacre Writers' short story competiton's closing date of 31st March.

For full details see blog entries for August 2010.