The homework for this week was to produce five different interpretations of the same event. It's from Raymond Queneau's Exercises de Style if your familiar with it. In our case, we had to describe a man falling off a bus and a woman smiling at him.
'I was waiting for a bus in Camberwell. You know, by that fish market, the one that stinks.'
'Oh God! I can't stand it there. I usually walk down to the next stop. Anyway ...'
'Anyway, I'd been waiting for simply ages. I was starting to wonder if there was a strike or something. And of course the first bus to turn up was a 176, terminating in Camberwell.'
'I know. But anyway, I was standing there near the back door and this bloke got off. He wasn't really looking. The bus had pulled up a bit far from the curb and he just fell flat on his face. I couldn't help smiling, he looked so hurt, the poor lamb.'
'And that's how you met Chris!'
C'mon, c'mon, c'mon. Stop the bloody bus. Come on. Still 5 minutes till the last post. Why do they always do this to me? God! What is that? Some kind of snapper, a carp? Why would anyone buy anything there it looks ... Stopped, yes, at last. Quick. Hell! Shit! Where am ... God, I must look an idiot. And now some bloody woman is laughing at me. Oh God! She's gorgeous.
It's is a truth oft acknowledged that circumstance is the mother of strange bedfellows so when Chris Sumner stepped, nay fell, off a 484 bus outside a fishmongers in Camberwell, all he was hoping for was to catch the last post. Little did he imagine that the woman who saw his embarrassed tumble and helped him up would soon become his wife.
You know how it is, you're in a hurry, say to post a letter, the bus driver is dawdling and just as you're about to get off the bus and sprint across the road to the post office, something catches your eye, just at the wrong moment - a new car, a strange fish in a shop window, an attractive member of the opposite sex, it doesn't really matter what. But that's how it was that this woman with the most genuine smile I have ever seen was gazing down at me, sprawled in the gutter like an idiot.
Once upon a time there was a silly man. He had forgotten to post a very important letter. And it was so very important. So he picked up his hat and coat, and the letter, don't forget the letter, and rushed out the door. He jumped on the first bus to come along. Unfortunately the driver was a bit of a slowcoach so when the bus finally got to the stop by the post office, the silly man only had a few minutes left in which to post his letter. He jumped off the bus but he wasn't looking where he was going and fell flat on his back in the gutter. Oh how silly he looked. His face went all red. But the nice woman standing nearby smiled sweetly and helped him up. And that's how I met your father.
We also did some Oulipo automatic poetry, replacing all the nouns in poems from John Betjeman and Phillip Larkin with the seventh noun from random pages of whatever books we had to hand (a variety of stats manuals, some bibles, Camp Concentration, a Katherine Kurtz novel, ...).
And then we looked at psychic distance and wrote a piece from the Wolf's point of view on his first meeting with Little Red Riding Hood.
Not bad for two hours work, with a tea break.