This is the WASTED BLOG. For my main author website, click this link.

Awards: WASTED won the Read it or Else category in the Coventry Award and was runner-up in the North East Book Award. It is longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Manchester, Grampian, Angus, and RED Awards.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


Tell me your stories! How has chance affected your life? Have you had a really unlucky incident, where you were JUST in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or a very lucky escape? Or do you know anyone who has? I'd love to hear - you can tell me in the comment box below.

Read the posts called LUCKIEST MAN ALIVE? and TOMMY ALLSUP's LUCKY ESCAPE to see what I mean. Though I don't expect you'll have anything as dramatic as that!

I've had four lucky escapes do do with car accidents. One where I fell asleep at the wheel and ended up on the other side of the road. But if I'd ended up on the OTHER side of the road, I'd have been dead... And, since I had fallen asleep, I couldn't control which way I went. It literally could have been left or right. Also, what if a car had been behind me in the lane I went into?

On another occasion, we were on the motorway and suddenly decided to take a different road, perhaps because we fancied some lovely scenery. We left the motorway but about ten minutes later we decided it was a mistake because there was a lot of traffic, so we went back onto the motorway. A few miles further on, we came to a bad accident which had just happened. A really bad accident... Now, I can't be sure whether we'd have been involved in it if we hadn't made that short detour, but the timing of it looked very much as though we'd have been just there at the wrong time.

I'm collecting other stories of chance from people I know. Lucy Coats, Kath Langrish and Catherine Hughes have started me off. You can read their stories here. Also, they're writers, so you'll see how amazingly different each writer's approach is to the simple task, "Tell me your stories of chance."

I have also just been sent this one by Claire Marriot, one of the bloggers I'm visiting. Her blog is over at Buckswriter but I just had to bring you her story here. When I read it, I felt my skin shrivelling.

"On the morning of 7 July 2005 I was running late. I’d probably hit the snooze button one too many times but, however it occurred, I found myself hurrying towards the door with my bag slung over one arm and coat over the other, intent on getting the next train into London. Except my front door wouldn’t open.

"Irritated, I put down the bag and tried the lock again. Nothing. I cursed under my breath as I had only had the locks changed a few weeks earlier when I moved into the house. I wiggled the key, pulled on the latch, tried oiling the lock but that door just wasn’t going to budge. I could get out of the back door and into a side alley through my garden gate but I couldn’t lock up behind me if I went out that way and I didn’t want to leave all my new possessions unprotected for the rest of the day. Finally I realised I was going to have to call the locksmith and get him to break me out.

"Really cross now, I called the office and told them I’d be late for our morning meeting. I boiled the kettle and tried to relax, waiting for the locksmith to arrive from the next village. He got there in about 30 minutes and was absolutely astonished at what had happened. The deadbolt had stuck in the locked position and he said he had never seen a new lock fail like that in over 25 years. Scant consolation for me I thought as I paid him and set about gathering up my coat and bag. Then the phone rang…

"It was a colleague from my office telling me that if I hadn’t left home yet I should stay where I was and turn on the TV as something odd was happening with transport in London. I told her I’d ring her back and switched on the morning news. That morning suicide bombers had blown up a London bus and three tube trains, killing 52 passengers and injuring hundreds more. Horrified I watched as the whole city shut down and streams of people, dazed and crying, emerged into the streets – many being carried or helped by passers-by.

"I never made it in to the office that day, we were a government building so the whole place shut down for several days afterwards. I have no way of knowing if I would have been on any of those trains, they weren’t my usual routes but I sometimes went a different way to avoid the crowds. Thankfully none of my colleagues were hurt either, although one had a very near miss. All I do know is that a lock failed on that day, in a very unexpected and unpredictable way, and I was physically prevented from journeying into London.

"Luck, chance, a kindly fate looking out for me? I’m not sure, but things like that certainly make you think."
No decision was involved in Claire's story, and it's small decisions that I'm mostly looking for from you, but nevertheless this is a powerful example of how chance events have huge consequences.

Over to you! And keep them as short as possible, please, otherwise we could end up writing a book between us. Hmm, now there's a thought!

BLOG TOUR: WHERE AM I TODAY? Nowhere. Lounging around at home. In real life, I'm unpacking boxes. Such is the glamour of my life. Tomorrow, I'm over at the Bookette.


Kath McGurl said...

Here's mine, hope it's not too long:

Fresher’s week, the Clubs and Societies Fair. I’m standing near the Mountaineering club stall, deciding whether to join. On the plus side, I love mountains and the club organise several trips each term to the Lake District, North Wales or other beautiful places. On the down side, it’s £10 to join and that’s a lot in 1984, and I have a boyfriend at another university who I’m hoping to meet up with most weekends.

I decide against it, and move away. I join the swimming and canoeing clubs instead – only £1 to join and weekday activities.

I’m about to leave, when I think again about the mountains. I could manage one weekend trip a term, surely? And £10 isn’t that much – I have my whole grant still sitting in my bank account.

I approach the table, talk to a blond post-grad called Dave (who two years later I will snog on a Cornish clifftop as the sun goes down) and sign up.

A year later, I’ve split up with my boyfriend, and am sharing a flat with two girls I met through the mountaineering club. Between us we run it now.

A boy called Fran joins the club. One evening, in a campus bar, he gets chatting about climbing to an ex-student known as Fatman. Fatman lives in a bed-sit in town. His neighbour has just moved out, into a room he’s subletting from an Irishman, but has left some items behind. A few days later, Fatman visits his ex-neighbour (who’s called Bogbrush on account of his skinny figure and wiry hair) to return the items. Fatman notices some climbing gear in Bogbrush’s flat, and mentions Fran and the university mountaineering club. Bogbrush gets in touch and begins coming along on club trips.

Many years later I marry the Irishman. I marry him because I decided to spend that £10.

I marry him because Fran chatted to Fatman that night. I marry him because Fatman bothered to return Bogbrush’s possessions. I marry him because Bogbrush hadn’t put away his climbing ropes.

We have two children who exist because of these events.

Karen said...

womagwriter I LOVE that story!

Mine is one that saved my life - a routine medical checkup I had no intention of keeping; was too busy, felt perfectly well, didn't have time etc. etc. Weeks later,I found the slip of paper with the appointment written on it at the bottom of a pile of paperwork and decided to go as it was that very afternoon and I had the day off work. Turned out I wasn't as healthy as I'd thought. I won't go into detail, but suffice to say if I hadn't decided to go I doubt very much I'd be here today.

Kath McGurl said...

Karen - thank goodness you kept the appointment!

catdownunder said...

When I was fourteen I was sent away to school - Monday to Friday. On Friday afternoons I would take the country bus home, an hour and a half journey.
On the first Friday there was another girl of about my age on the bus. We smiled hesitantly at each other.
"That's Christine She's deaf but you can sit next to her if you like."
The bus driver knew everyone. I did like, after all everyone else on the bus was a grown up.
Communicating with Christine was a huge effort. I did not even know the manual alphabet and, because of my own disability, my writing is almost illegible. Sign language, even the manual alphabet, requires a considerable degree of manual dexterity.
But, somehow we managed to have a short, stilted communication - and Christine spent the trip teaching me the alphabet. She was back on the bus on Monday morning and we had another sort-of conversation.
We only saw one another at monthly intervals as her boarding school only allowed her home once a month.
We also lost contact when my family moved again and I no longer caught that bus.
But, it was my time with Christine that taught me what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I could not work with the profoundly deaf, my signing would never be good enough for that, but I could find ways to work with people who had other sorts of communication problems. As a result of that first chance meeting with Christine several very big things have happened, they have had an international impact. We use Blissymbols (go and look those up) around the world. We had International Literacy Year and I have one of the strangest and most challenging jobs in the world.

Catherine Hughes said...

Wow - someone else with children by chance (womagwriter). My story is similar.

Nicola is having trouble with her mobile broadband but has asked me to thank you for your stories and to let you know that she is reading them. She can't get good enough signal to allow her to send a reply, but please bear with her until she gets home on Friday.

Meanwhile, please keep them coming - these stories are fascinating!

Cat x

Marshall Buckley said...

You want them short? Damn...
Quick summary:
I'm only writing because of a comment posted on Facebook.
I only joined Facebook to keep in touch with Chris when he moved to Canada.
I only know Chris because our sons were in the same class at school.
I only have kids because a colleague gave me my wife's telephone number. Amazingly, I called her (I was painfully shy back then) - and this is the woman who told me to f*ck off a few months previously (seriously, it's a great story...)
He was only my colleague because I changed jobs, despite my then employer offering more money etc to keep me.
I was only in that job because I hated the previous one so much I left without a job to go to...

I could go on and on...