We were asked to write about circumstances conspiring to prevent something happening. That was hard (aren't they all? That's part of the fun!).
I could have written this before I started coming to the group, but I couldn't have written it anywhere near as well. I've been very conscious of the opening hook and the use of a sense of place to reflect a mood. These are lessons that we've concentrated on and I've found them valuable.
It wasn't a dark and stormy night. Therefore the dawn was very bright and clear, though it was more than a little chilly. Jake the Dog was out in the garden chewing on his emergency bone, the one he uses to make time go faster so that the things he's looking forward to will happen much sooner. He looked up at me with his limpid, brown eyes and he said, "Is it time for my morning walk yet?"
"Yes it is, Jake," I said. "Let's get going."
He dropped his emergency bone on the lawn. It's job was done. He came bounding into the house. I dressed up warmly – thick denim jeans, a leather jacket, my new hoodie, a scarf and a pair of woolly gloves. I put Jake's lead around his neck, and off we went, out into the cold light of day. The grass was white with frost and it crunched under our feet as we strode along. "Oh dear," said Jake as we turned the corner, "that doesn't look good."
The house at the end of the road had its lawn sprinklers going. They are very badly adjusted and they squirt high pressure jets of water all over the pavement rather than over the lawn. While they are squirting, the footpath is soaking wet and quite unusable, unless you fancy a free shower. When they stop squirting, the winter weather quickly turns the damp pavement into a deadly sheet of ice which is best avoided by those of a slippery disposition.
"That is a problem," I agreed. "There isn't a footpath on the other side so we'll have to walk in the road. That isn't very safe. Shall we go back home and wait until the sprinklers are turned off?"
"No," decided Jake. "I think I'd rather take my chances with the road."
We crossed over and walked along the edge of the road, past the gardens of the houses that lined that side of the street. Jake sniffed constantly at all the the smells, concentrating on each one for minutes at a time.
"Why are you taking so long over all those smells?" I asked him. "It's slowing our walk down and I'm getting colder and colder. Let's keep moving or else my lubrication will freeze solid in my veins and I'll seize up completely."
"I'm so lucky those sprinklers were turned on" said Jake. "I wouldn't have missed this for the world. Somebody's got an advance copy of the next Game of Thrones novel and they're sharing it all along here, chapter by chapter as their bladder allows. I've got to read every word. It's very exciting..."
"Oh come on," I said, tugging hard at his lead. "Let's at least try and get to the end of the road."
"Hang on," said Jake. "I've just got to a good bit." He inhaled deeply. "Well," he said, "I never expected that would happen!"
After a lot of stopping and starting and much quiet contemplation, we finally got to the end of the road. We turned right and walked towards the park. Suddenly Jake came to a complete halt. "I'm not going that way," he said firmly.
Usually Jake is more than happy to go wherever I point him. There are always smells to investigate and sometimes there are sticks. Once there had even been a dead sheep. But despite all these attractive possibilities, this time Jake absolutely refused to move. Thirty six kilograms of dog is an immovable object and I am very far from being an irresistible force. So the laws of physics meant that we were stuck. "What's the problem?" I asked him, puzzled.
"There's a tyre in the path," said Jake. "I think it might have come off the back wheel of a Nissan Nasty. Look at it lying there, all horrible, round and black. I don't like it. I don't want to go anywhere near it."
"Don't worry Jake," I said. "I'll protect you." I was starting to wonder if we were ever going to get back home. Everything seemed to be conspiring to make this walk last forever. But finally, after much persuasion and a dried liver dog treat, Jake reluctantly agreed to carry on. He sidled cautiously up to the tyre and sniffed it. The tyre just lay there passively. It didn't seem to care that it was being sniffed.
"Huh!" Jake grunted, unimpressed. "It's a copy of Pride and Prejudice. I read that ages ago when I was just a puppy and I've re-read it several times since. I can't imagine why I was so worried about the stupid tyre. I think I'll overwrite it with Game of Thrones." He lifted his leg and did just that. "OK," he said cheerfully, "give me another bit of dried liver and let's walk on."
We left the tyre behind and carried on walking. Apart from a brief stop to peruse a Harry Potter spin-off we made it back home without further incident. Perhaps I'd been wrong about the conspiracy.
Jake ambled out into the garden and went straight back to his emergency bone. "Is it time for my lunchtime walk yet?" he asked.
And, of course, it was.