Cardigan Mansions

Yesterday morning, I received this message on Twitter from @isildrae.


So that was my Saturday assignment sorted. After engaging full-on Dad Mode by going to the tip and chopping down a tree (true story!), I set to it on Saturday evening. The result – exactly 300 words – is below.

I struggled with this, mainly because I don’t enjoy writing detailed exposition. I generally find scene-setting boring to read and therefore to write. I don’t care about the shape of a table, unless it’s integral to the plot.

I began this challenge by writing an absurdist piece about an abandoned building in the middle of the woods in Italy and I should have persisted with that, because this is flat. It’s fine, I like the premise, it has a certain amount of portent, but if I’m honest, it’s boring. It doesn’t challenge me or you and not to sound melodramatic, but that offends me. If it’s not going to ask questions, what’s the point of it existing? It doesn’t help that I’m listening to Kate Tempest tonight and she’s making me feel wholly inadequate as a creative individual. So I’m going to have another go on Sunday.

[late Saturday night update: I went to bed not happy with what I’d written, as you can gather from the above. When I wrote that, the piece was 500 words. I’ve since come to bed and chopped it down to 300 words and I think it’s a little better. Not great, but better. It’s amazing how you can almost halve the length of a piece of writing and lose virtually nothing. Editing is EVERYTHING!]

All that said, it was good to be set a challenge and taken out of my comfort zone, so I thank @isildrae for that. (Full disclosure, he’s my brother and enjoys seeing me suffer.) If anyone has any other rules or challenges they’d like to set, please let me know and I’ll do my best. Thanks for reading and I hope you like it more than me. Let me know 🙂


Cardigan Mansions. A tall, thin detached building over three stories, squeezed in like a flimsy paperback. In the drive, a red BMW is parked erratically in front of a silver Audi TT.

The front garden is beautifully kept, the work of a professional; a gravel path bordered by large stones and flower beds, a small lawn cut with perfect stripes. Steps lead up to a large black door with a polished bronze knocker. Hanging baskets bloom.

The hallway is modest, with a shoe rack – largely filled with adidas – and an elegant wooden hall table, upon which sits a pile of unopened letters. A £27,000 canvas of an original Iron Man print leans against the wall next to a child’s upturned scooter, a packed suitcase and a navy clutch bag.

In the living room, Fight Club plays at full volume on the 70″ TV. Next to an armchair is a small table and lamp. A half-smoked cigar sits in the ashtray, alongside an a empty bottle of gin.

In the kitchen, two iPhones lie on silent as notifications arrive with increasing frequency. The landline is off the hook. The knife block is on its side. Another unopened letter is perched on the side of the kettle.

Beyond the French windows, the back garden is as neat as the front, although the shed door is open, the key still in the open padlock.

Upstairs, the bathroom door is closed, but not locked. The light and fan are on, while the children’s bedroom doors are also closed.

A dark, narrow staircase leads up to the second floor and the immaculate main bedroom.

Steel steps emerge from the pitch black of the attic to the middle of the room. From the darkness, the rhythmic creaking of rope pulled taught over ageing, dry wood.