Both Sides of the Story - Westminster
Westminster (England, 1993): "Madam Speaker, I —" Baxter groaned and lifted the pen. He stuck the end in his mouth and sucked on it, searching for a better opening line. He crossed out the first words and started again. "Madam Speaker, the —" His pen froze again. "Damn it, why won't the words flow?"
Both Sides of the Story is a collection of short stories written and narrated by Robert Fairhead. Written for a UK writing competition in 1994 and inspired by Phil Collins’ 1993 hit song, the collection contains four self-contained vignettes and a fifth piece that resolves the five short stories. Westminster, Bosnia, A Council Flat, and The Gym are the vignettes. And Bad News is the fifth and final part.
Robert shared Both Sides of the Story on the Tall And True writers’ website in 2019 and published the ebook collection in 2020. The podcast version is presented in six instalments, an introduction, followed by the five vignettes. In the earlier podcast episode, Both Sides of the Story - Introduction, Robert explained how he wrote the short story collection. And at the end of each vignette, he provides insight into that episode’s short story.
The show notes include links to Both Sides of the Story on Amazon and Kobo and the podcast's theme music and sound effects.
Copyright notice: Both Sides of the Story song written by Phil Collins from the album Both Sides (1993).
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Writer's Insight for Both Sides of the Story - Westminster
In February 1994, I started working on a short story for the Ian St James Awards. It was my third submission to the then annual awards, at the time, the UK’s biggest fiction prize for unpublished writers. And my entry was inspired by Phil Collins’ 1993 hit song, Both Sides of the Story.
The news back then was full of items about people for whom the public (including me) had little sympathy. And watching the Both Sides music video on MTV with its scenes of violence and backstory, I wondered if I could follow Collins’ lead and show both sides of a news item, or story, in my writing.
I wrote Both Sides of the Story as four self-contained vignettes and a fifth piece to tie together and resolve the five short stories. Westminster, set in England in 1993, is the first of the vignettes. It deals with a familiar subject matter of infidelity in high places and the consequence of keeping secrets for careers and families.
In the earlier Introduction episode for Both Sides of the Story, I quoted from my February 1994 diary about how some of the scenes developed: “They seemed to create their own twists and turns, guiding my fingers over the keyboard. And somehow, the endings fell into place, generally when I needed them, as I neared my midnight time limit.”
And this is what happened when writing the last sentence for Westminster, “The Prime Minister wears glasses,” Baxter consoled himself aloud. “Bugger!”
The British PM, when I wrote Both Sides of the Story, was the bespectacled John Major. He was considered an unlikely “first among equals” when Margaret Thatcher resigned in 1990. And despite winning reelection in 1992, Major went on to lose the 1997 UK election in one of the largest defeats in history. In 2002, it was revealed he’d had a four-year affair with a fellow MP from 1984 to 1988. And a newspaper later claimed that had the affair not been kept secret, Major would not have become PM in 1990.
Thanks for listening to this episode of Tall And True Short Reads. You can read all my short stories, blog posts and other writing at TallAndTrue.com.
The next episode and second vignette from Both Sides of the Story, Bosnia, will be released shortly. In the meantime, please check your podcast feed for other short stories. And follow or subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it via your favourite listening app.
And finally, please tell your family and friends about Tall And True Short Reads and the Tall And True writers’ website.
Podcast Theme and Podcast Sound Effects
Royalty-free music from Pixabay.com: Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ‘Pastorale’ – IV. Rondo. Allegro ma non-Troppo, performed by Karine Gilanyan.
Big Ben Chiming: https://freesound.org/people/signtoast/sounds/259965/
Tearing/Discarding Paper: https://freesound.org/people/GustavoGE/sounds/560081/
Chair Scraping on Floor: https://freesound.org/people/sagetyrtle/sounds/35033/
London Traffic: https://freesound.org/people/mzui/sounds/135095/
Office Footsteps: https://freesound.org/people/conleec/sounds/148466/
Clock Ticking: https://freesound.org/people/gecop/sounds/522119/
The podcast is recorded in Sydney, Australia, on Eora Country.
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