The Plots inside the Coats

train station

Standing on the train station, early the other morning, I looked around at my fellow travellers. It was the first properly autumnal day of the year and they hunched quietly against the rain and the cold wind. All with a similar purpose, waiting for the train to arrive, but each with their own unique life. Inside those coats every one of them held, and continues to hold, the plot for a novel, like a board game with an infinite number of variations. Love, loss, illness, parenting, childhood experiences, ambitions, frustrations, feuds, the places they’ve lived, the lessons learned…


The French writer, Georges Polti, proposed in 1895 that there are thirty-six different dramatic situations such as ‘obstacles to love’, ‘daring enterprise’, and ‘ambition’. Later, Christopher Booker used a Jungian approach to argue that there are just seven basic plots. These include ‘rags to riches’, ‘the quest’, ‘comedy’, and ‘overcoming the monster’. Some literary experts have embraced this classification whilst others have decried it. However, regardless of arguments over how many basic plots exist, there are today 7,369,713,000 people alive and by tomorrow that figure will have grown by about 228,000. Add to that the 107 billion people who have ever lived and that’s a lot of stories.

I’ve come across plenty of entertaining people in my life so far. But I’m always keen to hear new stories and getting people talking round a table is an excellent way to find out about them. My fantasy dinner party list currently includes four guests. Continue reading

Missing the Titanic

A year ago this week, I packed up my house and moved a hundred miles, leaving my old world in commuter-belt Kent to start a new life in Southampton. Twelve months on, the boxes are unpacked, the pictures are hung, there’s an impressive layer of dust and I can, at last, make my way from home to the city centre and back, without finding myself accidentally heading along the M27.

This week I have another anniversary, too. Continue reading