The cul de sac has long been a fascination for me with Carol Ann Duffy’s wonderful Stafford Afternoons evoking a lost time of melting tarmac and challenged innocence. I am a child of the 1960s and remember living in Chapel En le Frith on an avenue and a cul de sac too. I can even remember the numbers of both homes. Odd numbers. And a huge pylon in my front garden which took away the light.
Now after reading the excellent The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon, which uses two ten-year-old detectives to discover the real story behind the disappearance of a neighbour, I decided to try out Edward Gorey’s images of his Doubtful Guest as a writers’ workshop.
The Avenue (or cul de sac), where I first met my extraordinary neighbour at number nine…
Who is your storyteller? How old are they? Where do they live on the Avenue? What do they want from life?
What is your extraordinary neighbour called and why do they live at number nine? Are they sociable and frequently seen at parties? What are their habits? Do they drive/paint/swear? Think of their voice and their favourite pastimes.
From Stafford Afternoons by Carol Ann Duffy.
Only there, the afternoons could suddenly pause
and when I looked up from lacing my shoe
a long road held no one, the gardens were empty,
an ice-cream van chimed and dwindled away…
In a cul-de-sac, a strange boy threw a stone.
I crawled through a hedge into long grass
at the edge of a small wood, lonely and thrilled.
The green silence gulped once and swallowed me whole.
Think about your avenue. Name the road, and describe a few of the inhabitants. What time of year are you describing?
Write the opening paragraph of your story. Give it a title.
How to analyse a text quickly!
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