Skiddaw

Creative Writing History

_We tried autobiographical writing in the first session this January. Here’s a sample of what was produced. By John Howell, it’s called . . . well, it isn’t called anything. Would anyone like to give this piece a title?

“Of course we can easily wallpaper the kitchen ceiling.” So said my father, a devoted and generally competent home decorator and DIYer. I was about 10 at the time and could only reach the ceiling by standing on the kitchen table. My role was that of assistant paper holder. Once the ceiling was washed and prepared my father and I set to work. Firstly the wallpaper paste was mixed in a bucket. Then the wallpaper was measured to length and a suitable first strip generously coated with paste. My father then systematically folded it in a concertina fold, pasty side to pasty side. The paper was taken off the table onto which I climbed. I was handed the folded paper. My father took one end and brushed it firmly in place, starting at one edge of the ceiling and I moved slowly backwards along the table as the sticking-in-place continued. So far, so good. I then had to turn round as there was no more room along the table and so I sure-footedly stepped round the paste brush (still on the table), ducked under the concertina fold, reversed direction and resumed my position allowing my father to continue sticking the other half of the strip on the remaining part of the ceiling to finish the first strip.

He had nearly got to the end when a sort of soft sloshy sound presaged the arrival of the first half of the strip off the ceiling and onto my head. My father had both arms in the air pasting the last part of this first strip in place. My hands were free and so I could slowly move backwards pushing the first half of the strip back onto the ceiling. Unfortunately I did not have the broad brush to do this with and just pushed it up with my hands. This of course left a rather wrinkled appearance in the strip as it went in place. It had to come off and be repasted and brushed back in place, while I now reached up to hold the second half of the strip in place on the ceiling. The first half was carefully brushed into wrinkle-free place.

I took my hands away. The telephone rang and my younger brother answered. He dashed into the room saying the call was for my father who turned to get the call. My brother, wearing sandals, stepped in the paste bucket. The now well-softened strip of wallpaper descended slowly from its place on the ceiling onto my head, which went straight through the strip. Pulling his foot from the paste bucket my brother put a paste-drenched sandal onto the floor.
We painted the ceiling.