A Readaround Beano at the Broons – 5 August 2020

Emotions, nostalgia and critical existential questions featured on this Chequerboard of Zoom. In a couple of hours we travelled from an Italian paradise to a patchouli-scented gran on the 1970s’ rock festival scene. In between, we plunged the depths of domestic violence, prompted memories of clothes line tennis, and debated the merits of just one word. Each allocated a comic character by Linda B, we wondered how appropriate they could be.

After hearing Fortress, the poem read by Damaris, we were left in no doubt about the emotional attachment she felt for an Italian location that had been her home for nine years. Rich descriptions of growling thunder, roses, lizards and sunlight on the ridge, touched all the senses – her writing took us there, resonating with memories.

Minnie the Minx she was not.

We joined a nefarious escapade to purloin coal in the first chapter of Joanne’s Coal dust and fisticuffs. A pram loaded with stolen coal under two sleeping weans was nearly discovered when “polis” was shouted in alarm. Characters were made real with natural dialogue as they saw-off prying official eyes, and later revealed what had happened behind closed doors when a stretcher removed the bruised body of one of the wives.

A far cry from Lord Snooty – but sooty maybe.

Linda H’s thought-provoking, nitty-gritty short story about anticipated domestic violence, was met with silence at first. She’s warned us that Losing was going to be grim. As the victim’s treatment got worse and worse, we wondered if she could have pulled back a little, let more be less – and make what she described as a short, short story into a piece of flash fiction with big impact.

How would the real Maw Broon have dealt with this?

My own attempt to bring childhood garden recollections full-circle with the one I cultivate now was met with appreciation and similar memories. Surviving stony ground told of swings, fights and football and the distinction between a patch of grass and a lawn. Fellow-Zoomers recalled using the clothes line for tennis or their Horse of the Year Show. Making connections had been important.

Maybe I was Billy the Whizz after all.

When should an English writer use “wee” rather than “little?” Jeanette’s concise poem, Good stuff, illustrated poetry being the right words in the right order, and we debated which the best fit was. Rhythm, accents and audiences influenced reactions – and even a challenge of cultural appropriation.

But, as she was Pansy Potter, we were wary of standing up to the strongman’s daughter.

As nineteen billion chickens threatened a revolution, Kirsty’s flash fiction gave the answer to the question posed since time began. With a character called Clucker and “what a load of nuggets” a cracking disparaging line, we still laughed with the final twist despite it being suggested in the title: Crossing the road.

Was this an example of chick-lit from Desperate Dan?

“And that was just the beginning,” Susan’s reading of the prologue ended. She did what we’ve often been advised to do, started in the heart of the action. Neighbours responding to a fire, apparent chaos and a title of Twisted all forewarned the reader of the mysterious big read ahead from her prologue.

Someone else was being Minnie the Minx as things were to emerge in a subsequent investigation.

Georgie’s gran, Ima Nutter, could have come from the Rev I M Jolly school of characters, as he follows her trail to festivals in days gone by. Had he found his grandfather? Was he the bass player in The Mystic Muffins? Linda B has promised us the final instalment of California Dreaming Nutter at the next Readaround.

Her character was really like Gnasher – a determined dog with a bone.

As ever, we learned a little from each for our own writing as well as developing more skills in what is likely to be the short-term future for the club.

Go on, try yourself in a fortnight.

Nigel Ward

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