Monday, 22 July 2013

Monday, 8pm-11pm, Flyer Fiction 4: What Goes Around, Comes Around

I'd picked Monday for the late evening part of the project, as it coincided with Cornerhouse's popular Reel Deal offer, so I thought there might be some interesting people knocking about. The first thing I saw was a girl trying to bring her bike into the foyer, something I've never seen before! Not surprisingly, she didn't succeed, but she did manage to make her way into the fourth and final story. This one's about a fixie - I'd spotted a few as the days passed and on Monday a really cool fixie rocked up, albeit very briefly, so that became the steed of the story. It tells a true-life tale of a friend of mine who left a bike unlocked outside a shop and was surprised to come out and find that it had mysteriously disappeared - still, the brakes didn't work and he only liked the pedals, hence that mention in the piece. His bike didn't reappear, however, but I wanted to bring the idea of karma into the piece, as I'd got some stick the day before, and was thinking about the idea of whether what goes around does come around.


What Goes Around, Comes Around
By Sarah-Clare Conlon

It probably hadn't been the brightest idea to leave your fancy fixie outside unattended while you nipped into the gallery to pick up the latest brochure. But the security guard wouldn't let you drag it across the freshly polished parquet and you were going to pop in and out quick-sharp, so you leant it against the chrome hoops, hidden within the melée of other bikes.

The trouble was, you knew too many people, and you were instantly spotted sneaking in and trying to streak back out. A former colleague collared you, the strangely over-excitable bloke from accounts who could never be quietened once he'd found his flow. And he found his flow easily. You nodded politely at his updates, jigging slightly from foot to foot, and eventually you managed to make your excuses and escape into the blinding glare of the sun. Your eyes straight away made out quite clearly the shape of what was missing. It was such a shame; you'd particularly loved those pedals, so aesthetically pleasing.

Then, while sulkily riding the sweaty bus home, you clocked your bike propped outside a shop and you dived off as passengers were pushing their way on board. Your legs had never pumped so fast as you made your getaway and pondered the chances of karma. Listening to the woes of others would only make you a stronger person.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Sunday, 11am-2pm, Flyer Fiction 3: I Say Old Chap, What's All This About Then?

Things were even quieter when I arrived on Sunday, but that was to be expected. As I was doing my observations (and eating brunch), a dapper chap arrived on a vintage blue bike with lovely old dynamo lights, which was great as I'd already decided to use Sunday's Tweed Ride as inspiration. This is a jolly jaunt around Manchester, everyone in their finery, and this meet had been arranged as a result of the fine weather. As I know the people who had organised it, I asked them to wend their way past Cornerhouse en route to Platt Fields, and they very nicely obliged! Another friend dropped in to say hello and a lady came over and asked if I was "the flash fiction writer" and we had a chat about the project, so she's also made her way into the story.


I Say Old Chap, What's All This About Then?
By Sarah-Clare Conlon

Claude and Camille were the democratically elected leaders of Tweed Ride – no one else had the time to organise the route what with all their brogue-polishing and floral frock-ironing. The brother and sister duo would spend sunny Sundays studying satellite shots of the city, devising suitable point-to-points for their sartorially savvy cycling pals, then disseminating the details via thoroughly modern means. The stylish steeds and their masterly tweeds would then gather at a pre-determined destination for a pre-dérive drink, before pushing off for a potter around culturally significant venues.

Often, they met at the arthouse cinema; Claude and Camille snagging their Pashleys together while they enjoyed eggs Benedict and Croque Monsieur, and waited for the others. There was Jonathan with his tandem, Ella with her apple-green step-through, Rob with his Harris flatcap, the plus-fours guy; the girl with the I Heart My Bike bell. Trundling around town, the mass attracted attention, and that was the point: promoting cycling for the chic and cheerful. Folk waved from pavement cafés, the people's paparazzi snapped the passing posse on smart phones. The Urbis youth looked on, not computing this weird alternative tribe. You've all got moustaches, they shrieked at the men mosying along. The women smiled at the men. The men smiled secretly, and kept on pedalling.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Saturday, 2pm-5pm, Flyer Fiction 2: Dynamic Positioning Strategy

I thought Saturday afternoon might be fairly busy, but it was so unbearably hot that I think a lot of people went wild swimming or picnicking in a shady park or something. There were a few bikes chained up outside Cornerhouse when I arrived for my 2pm-5pm slot and during my observation period for the first hour, not a lot happened. I'm guessing most of the owners were having lunch in the cafe. Of the movement that there was in the first hour, one bike came and went within five minutes, which got written into the story, one bike arrived (a friend coming to see me), and one bike left (a friend who didn't see me). There were some old racers, so I decided one of the characters would have a racer. So here's Flyer Fiction 2.


Dynamic Positioning Strategy
By Sarah-Clare Conlon

Anna was an artist and she liked to express herself through the medium of dance. But when the key got stuck, she didn't know where to put herself and for the first time in ages, she wasn't going anywhere fast.

Matt spotted the woman flopped down cross-legged on the pavement as he scuttled back to his bike five minutes after he'd first tied it up, and sped over.

His swiftness impressed Anna and instinctively she flung her hand into the air and found herself back on her feet in an instant. Smooth moves, she thought, as Matt deftly fixed the lock and set her free. Fast mover, she thought, as he unhitched his racer and invited her out for a drink.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Friday, 5pm-8pm, Flyer Fiction 1: Foraging For Townsfolk

So, a week ago, I'd not long finished my first stint at Cornerhouse; the 5pm to 8pm slot. I'd picked this time because I thought my observations might benefit from the leaving-work-early-on-a-Friday phenomenon, or POETS day, as my dad calls it (Piss Off Early, Tomorrow's Saturday). And so it did: for the first hour I was furiously scribbling down notes on the comings and goings at the Cornerhouse bike stands. These notes were to prove a Very Good Idea, and as the weekend went on, I noticed various behavioural patterns, returning bikes, regular passers-by and visitors, and just one-off points of interest that found their way into the subsequent short-short stories that I came up with, one a day for four days, and left for four Cornerhouse stands cyclists on each of those days.

This week, I'm going to publish the stories here in the order in which they appeared in public and in that original incarnation - although I edited them and made changes as I went along, I did make a concerted effort to finish all observations and stories in the three-hour stint I had given myself, so things are a little rough around the edges and I can already see where I'd like to make amendments and perhaps additions. While some think that flash fiction is written in a flash, I'm of the opposite opinion and feel that it is read in a flash, but the crafting of the work takes longer, so this was rather an unusual exercise for me, and I'd like to spend some more time with the drafts before the final result reveals itself. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the pieces so far.

The first story was inspired by a ladies' bike with a nice wicker basket, having noticed as I was locking my own bike up that in the basket there was a broken pen and a penny. I drew on my own experiences of once having a (sadly now broken) wicker basket, which seemed to attract all kinds of littering activities, along with a stalker who left me fresh flowers, always yellow, at regular intervals over a period of about eight weeks. The story also makes a reference to the aforementioned POETS day and gives a further nod to the writer by suggesting their gift to the "you" of the story could be a poem.


Foraging For Townsfolk
By Sarah-Clare Conlon

A broken pen and a penny – these were the treasures you'd gathered in the basket of your bicycle from commuters rushing up the ramp to the station and dumping en route. It was a collection, but not really an impressive one; not one you could shout out to the world on social networking, not one you would even bother to tell your friends about over a glass or three of POETS day white wines.

There had been more bits and bobs, but, as you hated queuing and your supermarket trips involved only the five items or fewer till, having too much in your basket naturally frustrated you. The empty pop cartons found their way straight into the bin next to the Cambridge stands, while the discarded free press ended up in the recycling, once you'd found out what was on telly, of course, and, then, during the ads, indulged in the rush-hour crushes.

I wanted to add to the urban miscellany that you'd decided to home. Something small, undiscardable? You might miss it. What about making a real statement and leaving you a poem? It could work. In the end I decided that nothing says it like flowers. But, in this heat, I have no idea what state they're going to be in when you find them.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Flyer Fiction: The Cornerhouse Project - story 4

Last night, the on-the-spot storywriting came to its conclusion, and here's the fourth and final in situ short-short story riding off into the night. If you received a story, do drop a line about what you made of it to I'm going to publish the stories here at some point soon and also write a post or two about the processes the project has involved, so do pop back and keep checking for updates.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Flyer Fiction: The Cornerhouse Project - story 2

Day 2 in the Big Corner House. Phew, it was sweltering. Perhaps because of that, there wasn't much in the way of comings and goings in bikeland; at least not at the Cornerhouse stands. Still, a story was written and it found its way onto another four bikes, as documented here. Partly, it was inspired by the fact that the bikes locked up when I arrived included a nice number of vintage racers; partly by the aforementioned insignificant number of comings and goings during the one-hour observation / listing period, two of those comings and goings involved arty folk wot I know. One of them came to visit me in situ; t'other had no idea I was there at that moment in time. Another point worth noting was that the fourth story that wasn't picked up when I left yesterday was still on site today. Right then, back tomorrow, pre Tweed Ride (which, if you should wish to partake in - and I recommend you do [tweed in this, or any, weather is optional, btw] - meets at St John's Gardens near MoSI at 1pm).

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Flyer Fiction: The Cornerhouse Project - story 1

Yesterday saw the first in situ list- and story-writing session for my Cornerhouse Micro Commission, Flyer Fiction. I left the story on four bikes locked up to the Cambridge stands outside and as I decided to stay in the cafe and eat me tea, I saw three of the flyers get picked up by the bike owners and the fourth get looked at by a passer-by. Everyone smiled, and all the bike owners told their friends about it - two were fellow cyclists, one was the driver of a VW Beetle.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Flyer Fiction: The Cornerhouse Project #4

Today marks the beginning of Flyer Fiction. Over the next four days, I will spend three hours per day in the Cornerhouse cafe, watching the bike stands out of the window, scribbling down my observations in an obsessive Oulipian manner, and hopefully producing at least one short-short story per sitting stint with which to fictionbomb the steeds. I may even squeeze in a light beverage or two. It's a hard life, but someone's got to do it. I'll be there at different times in order to capture different moods and activities, and the whole writing in situ part of the project will add up to 12 hours, covering 11 in the morning to 11 at night. The 12 is significant for a future piece I'm plotting to work on and which will also involve a system, if it comes off. We shall see.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Flyer Fiction: The Cornerhouse Project #3

So here we are - what you need to keep your eyes peeled for if you're a cyclist about town Friday through Monday this weekend.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Flyer Fiction: The Cornerhouse Project #2

As we wend our merry way towards the weekend, and the start of Micro Commission: Flyer Fiction, I thought I'd tell you about a story I've already written that's set at Cornerhouse - in Cinema 1, to be exact. Everyone Has A Favourite Spot is published in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine and has been recorded by Les Malheureux, the results of which you can listen to on Soundcloud by clicking here. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Flyer Fiction: The Cornerhouse Project

This weekend, the next round of Site Specific Stories will be written in situ at Cornerhouse, as part of the Micro Commissions programme. If you're around, bob by and see if you can spot me; say hello, and I might pop you into the stories I'm going to be writing - I'll be there Fri 5-8pm, Sat 2-5pm, Sun 11am-2pm and Mon 8-11pm. You can read more about Flyer Fiction on the Micro Commissions website and I'll be updating this blog with information as the project unfolds over the next few days...