Writing exercise #12 – Along the canal

A rather self-referential piece this time. By this point in the writing challenge I’d spotted the violent theme and was wondering where it came from.


He walks along the towpath, looking for inspiration. The sky is pale blue with shreds of white cloud, and the almost leafless poplars make it look like a Monet painting – one of those ones of canals that don’t really have a subject and were maybe just painted out of exuberance, the joy of simply being able to capture something.

Just like he can’t. Well, of course that’s not actually true, in fact. He can capture stuff – there’s nothing wrong with his actual style – it’s just that what he writes about is all so gloomy. No matter what he starts writing, it always ends up with at least one and usually more characters suffering a violent death. Which would be fine if he was writing a whodunnit, but he’s not. Years ago someone – Martin Bell, probably – suggested that there should be more reporting of positive news, and he’d always wholeheartedly agreed with that.

He’s long since pruned his social media feeds of any sources of negativity; he doesn’t have a telly; he doesn’t read the newspapers. He only really hears about stuff if someone down the pub is talking about it. And yet his writing oozes death and disease and violence and misery.

Take this canal, for instance. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to picture the dead bodies floating in it. After all, Morse and his ilk seemed to spend their entire careers fishing corpses out of the water. Or what about if it was frozen and some teenagers were skating on it and one of them went through the ice. Just an accident – or is it? All those rampant hormones running wild. Lovers trysted by canals (suicide, murder, quarrels over abortion). Anglers might fall in by accident (it couldn’t be easy swimming with waders on). The one that didn’t get away.

And then there’s the canal – often deserted and usually running through a dodgy part of town – as the scene of ambush. Or what about the emotions and hidden jealousies in a group of people living moored up near each other on narrowboats? Arson would be a neat way to rid yourself of a troublesome neighbour. And then there are the cyclists; suicidal/murderous loonies using the towpath like a race track. Motorcyclists, too. Or canal bridges with collapsing walls or run into by a car… Even the power lines spanning the water in the distance are potentially lethal.

He sighs and looks at the far off hills. Maybe tomorrow he’ll walk there, try to get some positive vibes. After all, surely hills are less threatening than a canal? Though of course someone could have fiddled with the brakes on your car…

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