Essay on The Collector by John Fowles

Sep 12 2014

The Collector by John Fowles has cropped up a few times in the current Facebook ‘list 10 books that have stuck in your mind’ thing, so I thought I’d post the essay I wrote on it for the Crossing Genre Boundaries module in the second year at university. *Just* missed getting a 1st for this essay – the tutor said I should have referenced more. I referenced the shit out of everything in my third year.

Warning: Massive spoiler. (I said ‘spoiler’, not ‘spider’, calm down.)

the-collector-john-fowles

How effectively do the writers you have studied present social difference/class anxiety?

This essay will analyse and discuss how the social and class differences between the characters are effectively presented in ‘The Collector’ by John Fowles. ‘The Collector’ is a novel based around the relationship between Frederick Clegg and Miranda Grey. Frederick is obsessed with Miranda, seeing her as a rare, beautiful butterfly and kidnaps her, believing that once she gets to know him, she will fall in love with him.

The novel is written in four parts; the first, third and fourth parts are narrated in the first person from Frederick’s point of view, with the second part also being told in the first person but from Miranda’s point of view and in the form of a diary. With the novel being set out in this way, the reader gets an insight into the mind of each individual character; we can see everything through their eyes and know their thoughts and feelings.

This essay will primarily focus on each of the character’s social class (including background, upbringing, education, vocabulary and occupation) and how the social classes are different between the two characters. It will also discuss and analyse how the format of the novel (being told from the two characters’ own points of view) illustrates these differences in an effective way.

We can see from the beginning of the novel that Miranda is from a middle-class background when Frederick says: “When she was home from her boarding-school I used to see her almost every day sometimes …” (Fowles 9). Boarding-schools were (as they are today) not used frequently by the working-class as they were costly to attend and only the wealthy could afford to send their children to them unless the parents had saved up to send their children to boarding-school, but this would still be beyond the means of most working-class people.

We do not know at this point know that Frederick feels inferior but as he mentions with regard to Miranda’s parents that her father is a doctor: “The year she was still at school I didn’t know who she was, only how her father was Doctor Grey …” (Fowles 9) and says with regard to Miranda’s mother: “I heard her mother speak once in a shop, she had a la-di-da voice …” (Fowles 10) we get the feeling that Frederick feels they are of a higher social class than him. Frederick comments on ‘la-di-da’ voices quite often throughout the novel, suggesting that he feels people often put on airs and graces. As we can see from his comment regarding Miranda: “I can’t say what was special in her voice. Of course it was very educated, but it wasn’t la-di-da …” (Fowles 18), we can tell Frederick feels there is a difference between being educated and ‘having airs and graces’.

Miranda lives in Hampstead – an affluent London suburb – with her parents. Frederick’s aunt brought him up after a car accident killed his father: “My father was killed driving. I was two” (Fowles 11), shortly after which his mother left: “… she went off soon after …” (Fowles 11). Being brought up by relatives other than his biological parents could make Frederick feel different to other people who had been brought up in the more traditional nuclear family.

The first part of the book – because it is narrated by Frederick – uses a straightforward vocabulary to reflect his personality and status; there are no fancy words and phrases, unlike the second part which is narrated by Miranda in a diary format. For example, Miranda uses phrases such as: “It’s all the vile unspeakable things …”, “Hateful primitive wash-stand and place”, “I can’t stand the absolute darkness” (Fowles 118, 119). A less educated person would use language that was less flowery and this is a good example of how the crossed genres of the novel (straight narrative from one character’s point of view and the narrative in diary form from another character’s point of view) presents the differences in the characters in an effective way.

This genre-crossing device further emphasises the differences in their backgrounds when we get the same events narrated through their own particular voices, commenting on the same incident. For example, after Frederick has bought and furnished the house with the money he won playing the football pools, Miranda derides his choice of decor: “A lovely old house really, done up in the most excruciating women’s magazine ‘good taste’. Ghastliest colour-clashes, mix-up of furniture styles, bits of suburban fuss, phoney antiques, awful brass ornaments” (Fowles 125) and criticises his choice of paintings: “You wouldn’t believe me if I described the awfulness of the pictures” (Fowles 125). However, Frederick believed that because they cost a lot of money: “They cost enough” (Fowles 52) this meant that they must be of a high quality and standard. We also have a similar comparison with the clothes that Frederick has bought Miranda. He puts a lot of thought into it: “I bought a lot of clothes for her at a store in London … I saw an assistant just her size and I gave her the colours I always saw Miranda wear” (Fowles 24) and spends a lot of money on them: “I paid out nearly ninety pounds that morning” (Fowles 25) (ninety pounds in 1960 would be the equivalent of over one thousand five hundred pounds in today’s money (This is Money website)). Miranda, however, as we can see from her diary, does not like the clothes Frederick has bought for her: “… wearing the least horrid of the shirts he’d bought for me” (Fowles 126).

As well as the football pools being a hobby more likely to be undertaken by working-class people rather than middle-class, Frederick’s feelings of being outside society are also reflected in the way in which he played the football pools, as he played the football pools on his own, rather than joining in with the work syndicate as we can see from: “Old Tom and Crutchley, who were in Rates with me, and some of the girls clubbed together and did a big one and they were always going at me to join in, but I stayed the lone wolf” (Fowles 12).

The difference in Miranda’s and Frederick’s education is emphasised in the novel by how we are shown that Miranda is well-read, by the mentions of classic novels in her diary, for example: “I have marked the days on the side of the screen, like Robinson Crusoe” (Fowles 151) and by dropping references into conversation: “So your aunt took you over. Yes. Like Mrs Joe and Pip. Who?” (Fowles 183), and by deriding him for not having any books in the house except for his butterfly books and the art books he has bought for her: “There aren’t any books … You can jolly well read The Catcher in the Rye. I’ve almost finished it” (Fowles 148). Miranda at one point compares Frederick to Holden Caulfield, the main character in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’: “You’re a Holden Caulfield. He doesn’t fit anywhere and you don’t” (Fowles 205).

There are further literary references throughout the book, especially ‘The Tempest’ by William Shakespeare, which is alluded to throughout. In ‘The Tempest’ there are characters called Miranda, Ferdinand and Caliban. Miranda – as we already know – is one of the main characters in ‘The Collector’. Ferdinand is what Frederick tells Miranda his real name is, as to him it sounds more distinguished: “She wasn’t to know F stood for Frederick. I’ve always liked Ferdinand … There’s something foreign and distinguished about it” (Fowles 39). In ‘The Tempest’, Ferdinand and Miranda are lovers and as Frederick’s/Ferdinand’s behaviour is anything but lovely, Miranda decides to call him Caliban – a beast/monster in ‘The Tempest’ who tries to rape Miranda (Frederick does not rape Miranda in ‘The Collector’ but he does at one point in the book tie her up and take photographs of her semi-naked).

Although the name Caliban is the only reference to ‘The Tempest’ Miranda explicitly makes, the themes throughout ‘The Collector’ are clear. Despite Frederick telling Miranda his name is Ferdinand and believing he is in love with her: “I love you. It’s driven me mad” (Fowles 37), because he is not well read, Frederick does not make the Ferdinand/Caliban connection and does not even question why Miranda is calling him this: “… sometimes she would call me Caliban, sometimes Ferdinand” (Fowles 66).

As well as Miranda’s distaste for Frederick’s taste in clothes and decor and his lack of literary knowledge, she also looks down on him for his apparent lack of art appreciation. Miranda drew a bowl of fruit several times and showed them to Frederick: “Another day she drew a bowl of fruit. She drew them about ten times, and … asked me to pick the best” (Fowles 60). Frederick displayed his lack of knowledge by choosing the one that looked the most realistic. Miranda looked down on him for doing so as we can see from her dialogue in the part of the novel from Frederick’s point of view: “That’s the worst. That’s a clever little art student’s picture” (Fowles 60) and also from Miranda’s point of view in her diary: “Of course he picked all those that looked most like the wretched bowl of fruit” (Fowles 132). Miranda, although an art student, also gets her views on art from a friend of hers – George Paston (that she calls G.P.). G.P. is older than her and she looks up to and admires him. When Miranda tells Frederick that he does not know what good art is, she is merely making herself sound knowledgeable by repeating what she has learnt from G.P. (who does not think much of her artistic skills), for example when she recalls: “He came and stood beside me and picked out one of the new abstracts I’d done at home … You’re using a camera … You’re photographing here. That’s all” (Fowles 159).

Although not as well educated as Miranda, Frederick is not unintelligent but he does lack a certain social awareness. For example, throughout the novel, Frederick calls Miranda his guest. A guest is someone that you invite into your home – not someone you render unconscious with chloroform, bundle into the back of a van and lock in a cellar.

Throughout the novel, although Frederick kidnapped Miranda and holds her against her will and this would usually give him the upper hand, because Frederick believes he is in love with Miranda, he does anything she asks (except for setting her free). In the end, however, Frederick has the ultimate power when Miranda gets ill and Frederick leaves her to die, instead of getting her help.

Despite Frederick saying: “Of course I shall never have a guest again …” (Fowles 282), it does not take long for another girl to catch his eye as a possible future guest: “Still as a matter of interest I have since been looking into the problems there would be with the girl in Woolworths” (Fowles 282). He admits that he made a mistake setting his sights on Miranda as she was of a higher social class than he: “… she’s only an ordinary common shop-girl, but that was my mistake before, aiming too high” (Fowles 282) and so if he were to have a new guest, it would be someone who would respect him and who would learn from him, instead of the other way round as it was between Frederick and Miranda: “I ought to have got someone who would respect me more. Someone ordinary I could teach” (Fowles 282). This is a conclusion he comes to after he has read Miranda’s diary and finds out that she never really loved him and felt superior to him.

This essay set out to analyse and discuss the social and class differences between Miranda and Frederick, by discussing how the novel portrays their backgrounds, the language they use, their jobs and education. It also set out to discuss how the format of the novel – being written in both characters’ points of view (one as a straight narrative and one in a diary format) presented these differences in an effective way.

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Leave The House Friday – Waitrose Cafe

Aug 29 2014

waitrose-cafe

After last week’s LTHF trip to Costa Coffee in my local Tesco, I decided I’d do a tour of supermarket cafes. I know I should be using local independent cafes and, if we had any decent ones here, I would, believe me. As it is though, the town centre is slickly awash with greasy spoons but no other kind of cafe except for chains like Caffe Nero and Starbucks and although there’s nothing wrong with a greasy spoon (I’ll have egg, beans, chips and mushrooms, please), I feel it’s more of a Bank Holiday breakfast kind of venue, rather than a Friday lunchtime one.

And, anyway, a tour of supermarket cafes sounds fun. Doesn’t it? And when I’ve run out of supermarkets with cafes (which I think will be next week), I’m going to progress onto department stores. (If any potential employers read this – I’m not as tragic as I sound, honest.)

Today, I thought I’d give Waitrose a go. And if they didn’t let me in, I’d sit on the wall outside and eat a packet of cheese and onion crisps. However, they did let me in, even though, as I am the Queen Of Going In The Wrong Direction, I spent five miles cycling in the pouring rain to get there even though it’s only about three miles away and so wasn’t looking particularly posh when I arrived. I would have asked directions when I begun to get lost but I didn’t go past anyone I thought would shop in Waitrose. One good thing about going the wrong way though was I went past the new-ish John Lewis which led me to add that to my list of shops to have lunch in on a Friday. One especially bad thing about going the wrong way was the car driver who decided red lights didn’t apply to him and were I not of a paranoid persuasion and deeply mistrusting of motorists and like to wait at the lights to make sure all the cars have actually stopped, I would not be here typing this; I would be in hospital eating hospital food and although I’ve never had hospital food, I’d put money on mozzarella, basil and tomato panini not being on the menu.

The Waitrose cafe is open plan and in the corner of the store which means you’re eating and drinking in front of people doing their shopping which is a bit off-putting. It’s also deeply disappointing with its selection of food. The only vegetarian sandwich they had was a cheese and onion toastie and I really wanted a panini (I ALWAYS want a panini) but the only one they had was mozzarella, chicken and bacon. Being a vegetarian, I’m probably not the best person to judge the merits of a mozzarella/chicken/bacon combination but, even if I still ate meat, that would not appeal in the slightest. They probably cater more for the tea and cake brigade, as there was a wide selection of cakes and pastries by the till.

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I sat down with my posh Cranberry Presse drink (you know things are posh when they add an extra ‘e’ onto stuff) which stated on the label it was 100% good. This is a lie. In my opinion, it was only about 66% good. I also thought it was lying about containing nothing artificial as I couldn’t remember ever seeing a citric acid tree but on undertaking an extensive and time-consuming investigation (i.e. I looked it up on Wikipedia) I found out citric acid is a natural preservative/conservative which occurs naturally in citrus fruits. That’s me told then.

Waitrose’s poshness evaporated when, because they don’t give you a number on a stick to take away with you so the waiters know where to bring the food, the girl behind the counter came out from behind the counter shouting CHEESE AND ONION TOASTIE and so I had to kind of gesture and wave and get her attention while everyone looked around and starting pointing the girl in my direction. Awkward.

The cheese and onion toastie was greasy and made me feel slightly sick and I didn’t hang around for long and soon went into the main part of the shop to see if they had any interesting vegetarian food (I’d brought my rucksack specifically for this purpose). Whoever says Waitrose is expensive obviously hasn’t been there on a day when they’re selling Linda McCartney Fishless Scampi for 99p (usually £2.60) or Quorn Mozzarella and Pesto Escalopes for 99p (usually £2.80). Bargain. I decided to wander round and see what was the poshest thing I could find and I reckon the roasted shallot and star anise dip takes that trophy. While I was on the lookout for posh stuff, I ventured over to the crisp aisle. It’s tiny and about a tenth of the size of the crisp aisle at Tesco but I did get some plantain crisps with lime and chilli which I reckon Tesco probably don’t do.

The poshest bit about Waitrose though by far were the fresh flowers and Dyson Airblade in the toilet. On the whole though, for a lunch experience in terms of food and atmosphere, Tesco was far better.

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Poem: Inappropriate Behaviour

Aug 26 2014

This poem was part of my portfolio for the poetry module at university. Getting a 1st for the poetry module was undoubtedly the biggest shock of the three years I was there. I celebrated by buying a bottle of absinthe, as poets drink absinthe, don’t they? This poem came about because I had the lines ‘I want to smile / but smiling’s not appropriate’ buzzing around my head and knew they had to be in a poem and yeah, well, it would be a bit inappropriate to smile because your husband’s just killed himself after finding you in bed with someone else, wouldn’t it?

Inappropriate Behaviour

You see us in the bedroom,
smile sadly,
slip off your gold band,
leave silently.

One week later
it’s your funeral.

I’m on one side
of your grave,
with my lover on the other.

I want to smile
but smiling’s not appropriate.

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Leave The House Friday – Costa Coffee

Aug 22 2014

I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit of a hermit. When it comes to leaving the house, I don’t actually like doing it. I frequently cancel social engagements because I don’t want to leave the house, even though I know I’ll enjoy myself once I’m there. So, to force myself to leave the house at least once a week, I invented a thing called Leave The House Friday -  you can guess what it involves. The last two Fridays were easy as I had optician and dentist appointments but today was less easy as I didn’t have a reason to leave the house and couldn’t be bothered to cycle into town for no reason. Then I remembered the Tesco down the road has a Costa Coffee inside, so I decided to have my lunch there.

Earlier in the week, I’d decided to write a guide to the ‘athons (the ‘athons being the Juneathon and Janathon yearly events I organise), so obviously a new project requires a new notebook and as I walked through Tesco to get to the cafe, I bought a new notebook.

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I chose this notebook for it’s ‘go faster’ stripes which I thought were appropriate for the ‘athons. While I was spending far too much time staring at stationery, I saw these little cuties.

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Are they the cutest notebooks in the world or what? And only £1.50 for the pair. Bargainacious! After also buying a fountain pen (which, being plastic, isn’t as posh as it sounds) and a packet of animal-striped biros (I’m not even going to try and make that sound posh), I eventually got to Costa Coffee and bought a mozzarella and basil panino. Luckily, the panino was pre-made, so I didn’t have to a) look like a smartarse by knowing the difference between ‘panini’ and ‘panino’; and b) make the girl behind the counter think I’m a weirdo for asking for a panino, not a panini. Although, when the panino was brought to my table, it had been cut in half, which led me to wonder if, when a panino is cut into two, does it then become panini?

I was faced with a dilemma when, while I was waiting for my hot chocolate, the girl behind the counter asked how I was today. I did the British thing and replied with ‘I’m fine, thanks’ instead of the truth which was, ‘Slightly hungover, but on the whole okay’ but then wondered if social etiquette demanded that I return her politeness by asking how she was. I decided not to ask her. Not because I’m an impolite old tart but because … actually, I don’t have a reason, I just decided there was no need for me to reciprocate. I’m sure she was fine though, in case you’re worried. If I go back there next week and she’s not there because she died of a terminal illness, I will feel suitably guilty, although even if I had asked her how she was, she’d only have responded, ‘I’m fine, thanks’, not ‘I’m dying of a terminal illness’, anyway.

In the queue behind me was a woman who, when it was her turn to be served, said, ‘Can I get a hot chocolate please?’ As she was a) standing in the queue; and b) not wearing a Costa Coffee uniform, I assumed she was a customer and not a member of staff asking if she could help herself to a hot drink, so I waited for counter girl to reply with, ‘No – you don’t work here and we don’t allow any old riff raff to help themselves. I will get you your hot chocolate while you stay on that side of the counter where you belong’ but unfortunately counter girl just smiled and made the hot chocolate.

The cafe is upstairs in Tesco, which means you can look down on the people doing their shopping. And by ‘look down’, I mean you can look down from above, not look down on them for shopping in Tesco, not Waitrose. From my window seat I could see three aisles with ‘Click & Collect’ signs at the end of them. The first one said ‘Everything from Musical Instruments to Kitchen Utensils’; the second, ‘Lawnmowers to Laptops’ but the third I could only see ‘Dulux to’ and I really hoped the missing word was Durex but I had to go and disappoint myself by checking on the way out and finding out it was ‘Dyson’. Bah.

Does Waitrose has a cafe? I bet the customers in there don’t say ‘Can I get …’.

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Guest Post: My Experience of Working With Illustrators, by Nik Perring

Apr 29 2014

Collaborating with Kirsty for the cover of The Flash Mob was a nerve-wracking experience. Would we like it? We absolutely LOVED it, but what if we hadn’t? I’ve known Kirsty for twenty-five years and it would have been heart-breaking to say, ‘sorry mate, hating your work’. Obviously, I needn’t have worried as Kirsty’s designed stuff for me before – most notably the Juneathon and Janathon banners and logos, so I knew we were in safe hands. It made me wonder about other authors collaborating with illustrators/designers though and so when Nik Perring said he was available for guest blogging, I thought, aha! I know what he can talk about. And so here he is, talking about collaborating with illustrators on his books.

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Hello. My name is Nik Perring and I write books. On April 7th my latest, Beautiful Words, was released. Beautiful Words is my fourth book and what’s a little unusual is that it, and each one preceding it, is illustrated. Yep, every one of my books, one for children and three for adults, have been illustrated but all in very different styles. And it wasn’t simply the styles that differed, the way I worked with the illustrators differed too, and the lovely and talented Cathy (we’ve been in a book together) has asked me to talk a bit about them.beautiful-words-nik-perring

My first was a small children’s novel where Jack, a young boy, time travelled to different eras in history (coincidentally, to places that feature on the national curriculum for history) and those illustrations are pretty straight forward cartoons. Thinking back to 2006, when it was published, my publishers asked for a general idea of what I wanted, which I gave, and then largely left it to Derry, the illustrator. My publishers would email what he’d done and asked for my thoughts on it, which were, mostly: that’s great! I don’t think I spoke with Derry once during the whole process.Roman

My next, Not So Perfect, was a collection of short stories for adults. And again I trusted my publishers with the illustrations and cover. I was encouraged to make suggestions but my publisher, the wonderful Roastbooks, pride themselves on making the books they publish as beautiful as objects as they are good to read. So again I trusted them to get it right, which they definitely did. I LOVE the illustrations in that book an awful lot. I seem to remember only asking for one, perhaps two, to be slightly altered out of the twenty-two.

The third was a completely different experience. I co-wrote the book, another collection of short stories dealing with people with strange super powers, with a fellow author and the illustrations were provided by the very talented comic book illustrator (and author) Darren Craske, only this time the illustrations were done before the book was submitted to The Friday Project/HarperCollins. So that meant that we had a lot more input and basically told Darren (sorry mate!) what we wanted. There was plenty of discussion and direction and a fair few times when we had to start from scratch. There’s even a strip in there that I wrote the script for – that’s how much direction poor old Darren got. But the results, I think, are brilliant.freaks

And now, here I am, on book four – a picture book for adults about beautiful words and the story of Lucy, Alexander, and Lily. It’s another Roastbook so the experience was pretty similar to that of Not So Perfect in that, basically, I provided the words and trusted them to find the right illustrator for it. And in Miranda Sofroniou they found a gem. Seeing how she’d interpreted my words was a wonderful thing – the illustrations are stunning (in my very biased opinion) and I think they’re that good because I didn’t have any input, because I didn’t tell anyone what I wanted, and because Miranda was trusted to interpret them however she thought best. And I think that’s a really important point: illustrators are people too (something that I think can easily get forgotten), and as such they have their own minds and their own ways of seeing the world and I think it’s no bad thing, in the right circumstances, to trust them to do their job. It is what they do, after all. And putting together a book is a collaboration.ineludible

The most important thing is getting the finished product to be as good as it possibly could be and I think it doesn’t matter, too much, how we arrive at that. Trusting good people to do good work is definitely a very good start.

Nik Perring is a short story writer and author from the UK. His stories have been published in many fine places both in the UK and abroad, in print and online. They’ve been used on High School distance learning courses in the US, printed on fliers, and recorded for radio. Nik is the author of the children’s book, I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do? (EPS, 2006); the short story collection, Not So Perfect (Roastbooks 2010); and he’s the co-author of Freaks! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins, 2012). His online home is www.nikperring.com and he’s on Twitter as @nikperring

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Wreck This Journal – Day 23 – Figure Out How To Freeze This Page

Apr 22 2014

Blimey, freeze a page? How am I going to do that? Take it to the North Pole? Pour liquid nitrogen on it?

freeze-this-page

I pondered this and pondered this and pondered this and… oh, hang on. I didn’t ponder it at all, I just bunged it in the freezer on top of the pumpkin and mozzarella ravioli (£2.49 from Maidstone Morrisons).

wreck-this-freeze-this-page

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Wreck This Journal – Day 22 – This Page Is a Sign – What Do You Want It To Say?

Mar 19 2014

wreck-this-journal-sign

There was only one possible thing for a sign to say today.

wreck-this-journal-selfies

 

If, however, you have been moved by all these attention-seeking selfiers (is that a word? Probably not. Ho hum) who probably got so lost in the ‘OMG, LOOK AT ME, I’M SO BRAVE FOR POSTING A PIC OF ME WITHOUT ANY MAKE UP ON’ ‘DON’T BE SILLY, HUN, YOU’RE GAWJUS’ stuff, they forgot to donate, and want to donate to charity yourself, you can choose a charity that doesn’t test on animals from this list.

I’m an over-40 female. It’s my prerogative to be grumpy.

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Wreck This Journal – Day 21 – Collect Dead Bugs Here

Mar 18 2014

wreck-this-journal-collect-dead-bugs

My friend Claire and I used to collect woodlice and take them to the pub. That was a couple (okay, about twenty-five) of years ago though and my bug collecting days are over. Plus it says dead bugs and although I think my house in London has approximately two-hundred-and-thirty-million dead wasps in the attic, I’m not about to make a 120 mile round trip to get them and I’m not about to go into the garden and start squishing things, either.

So I drew some happy spiders instead. I think they’re happy anyway. They could be crying inside, I suppose but let’s pretend they’re happy.

wreck-this-journal-collect-dead-bugs-here

A couple have only seven legs, to give it some realism. Convincing, huh?

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Wreck This Journal–Day 20 – sdrawkcaB etirW

Mar 17 2014

wreck-this-journal-write-backwards

I got very bored very quickly writing backwards, so I decided to just write words where the letters looked the same backwards as the right way up but I could only think of w, o, I and l (and ‘n’ if you cheat and leave off the spiky bit), and writing ‘wool’ once was enough excitement for one day.

wreck-this-journal-backwards-writing

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Wreck This Journal – Day 19 – Take This Book In The Shower With You

Mar 16 2014

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You’ll have to excuse the splodge from the apple and chocolate parcel – I used the book as a saucer. I don’t usually put pastry based products on my books, honest.

wreck-this-journal-shower

It doesn’t actually say the shower has to be on, plus it had a paddle in the sea a week ago and I’m not sure it’d take another soaking.

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