Victorian-inspired love letters

A few years ago I embarked on my first writing collaboration. We talked about sleep paralysis, something I had been suffering from recently, and brainstormed some story ideas based around my own personal experiences, some online accounts, and, of all things, Google Images. Now, if you’re not looking to write a gothic drama or a horror, ‘sleep paralysis’ are not words you should search on Google Images. It’s pretty terrifying, especially for anyone who hasn’t experienced it – on my own part, at least I recognised something in the images of goblin-like creatures sitting on the chest of the sleeper, the feeling of weight and suppression stopping you from moving when you feel like you’re awake when you’re not. It’s sort of validating.

The play we set about writing was a Victorian gothic, centered on a trainee doctor who takes up the job of visiting a young woman who cannot be roused from a deep, continuing sleep. The doctor gradually becomes obsessed with the woman, and writes her a series of letters. Cue us trying to get into the head space of the infatuated Victorian gentleman. The following are a few contributions of mine to that effect.


As the sky knows the sun’s place, so your face comes back to me every day. I see that tricky smirk and attempt to eradicate all effect on my person, though alas this is as futile as drawing a thin curtain before the blazing sun, only for it to smelt and drop at the feet of one so utterly besotted by the captivating beauty of the unattainable.


Like the sea tunes the great whale’s song, so the imperfections in your complexion form a rosy glaze that muffles all that disturbs the quiet of the world.


While moons play idle games with waves, while buttered wings tease dew-tainted petals, my taunted fingers strive to reach you through idle words, to tease your hair through quiet conversations hung with poetry and pretty pictures.


I am not poetic. I can do the occasional wordplay. But nothing permits for apt appreciation of the inches of your curves, the patchy come and go of your attentions, the coquette of a dapple on half your glistening eye. The apt half.


God could not be aware of one of his most flawless creations having slipped through his hands and down to my realm, a pit of whirling fools delivered to the mercy of affectation such as lies in your alabaster stare. The vision of you haunts me through  restless nights, and I am strangely never more comforted. It is not completely that you are without imperfections, but there each inconsistency in your constitution is a perfection in itself, designed to renew my hopeful tendencies towards eros and all its pleasant relatives. Give me knowledge, ghost, of how I may be more often in your company, and one day in your favour. I am a dogsbody to your satisfaction.

Letters I Should Have Sent #3

Dear anonymous fitness centre,

Tonight, I attended your establishment in the hope of engaging in your (by my previous experience, very rigorous and rewarding) circuits class. (Perhaps this tremendous assault of hormone release would turn my life around?)

Going by the times on your website, I arrived for 6pm on Tuesday. Oh what facetious error! On arriving at this time I was told, quite abruptly, by the lady at the front desk, that the information on the website was wrong and that ‘the sign on my desk’ was correct.

Now, forgive me for being simple, your kind humblenesses, but I do believe it would have been impossible for me to see said sign on the desk had I not physically come into the centre. And I don’t believe it was my fault that the information on the (your) website was different. And I can imagine that anyone looking up your veritable institution as an outsider, perhaps one visiting from, say, Worksop, may not have the opportunity to physically be in your reception area in advance of their actual visit for circuits class.

Are you an exclusive (members only) institution? Must one be born into a line of relatives allowed access to the centre? I have never heard of such a place, though I can imagine that they may exist. (Anything’s possible, isn’t it?) This might have accounted for the spiky nature of the aforementioned lady of the desk. If this is the case, I do apologise – I have never been one to trespass onto private property. Not once have I stepped on the grass when instructed not to.

I was however dismissed in confusion as to what had gone wrong and what could I do about it next time?

… And so I would like to suggest, as a progressive step, in order that you don’t have any more hassle from strays like myself wandering in and naively asking to join your circuits class, that perhaps you might post a notice to that effect on your website, or make it password-protected or something. Yes, that’s a good idea. Perhaps that.

Happy Thursday,


I cannot help but feel – and yet, I can help, and do still feel – that you are merely waiting for your turn to speak. I would be more grateful of your response if I thought you had heard me at all. Taken any of it in. As opposed to supping your drink and seeing this as an opportunity for you to shine. It’s about me here, not you.

I would not push my designs on your sanctuary.

I suppose I forgive you. I wouldn’t know what to pick out if I didn’t have a response to each point mentioned in a piece of art or writing, and if I did it would feel shameless and not genuine to sing about them all. But to have you prick your ears at something that, for me, was so besides the point, is… irritating. It’s probably best if we just keep our mouths shut and don’t get it wrong. Right?


If you have to make a point of asking “How are you two?” at the start of every conversation with him, my faith in your behaviour does somewhat falter, I must admit. I thought you were a safe one. You almost had me convinced. You did, in fact, for a while. Your practised eye-averts when he’d come into the room. Practised disinterest. Choosing outfits that weren’t too flattering. Letting your hair down in that natural, effortless way. Making a point of doing it here. On our sofa. Wearing it up in a lazy bun with an everyday hairband, and then letting it down. Letting us know you were relaxed, comfortable, clearly no ill intentions and no mask, no performance. Nothing you were trying to gain. Very nice touch, asking him about himself. His hobbies. Nicely enunciated apathy. I wonder if it ever happened. If it changed. If you were, at any point, truly disinterested. And if that changed for my benefit. For the sake of our friendship. Or naturally, but platonically. Or if you’re just another one of those, now. One I have to watch. Listen out for. Keep at a safe distance. One that, if I didn’t, would probably end up alone on the same nights as him, ‘popping’ round for a bit of company and chat about me, as your common interest, obviously helping your argument that it was completely harmless – Let’s talk about how much we both love her, then she can’t complain and no one would even know. I don’t ever have to give anything away – and ending up slightly cramped for space on that big, comfy sofa, toes overlapping, until one of you decided you were in need of a shoulder rub. I know I can’t keep an eye on him all the time. But you, you can check yourself. I know you won’t. You can’t help yourself. He can’t. But it’s not about him. When did it stop being about me? I’m sure you’re very genuine, but keep your love to yourself, love.

My friend has changed

I waited for you. I watched you. With kindness. With kindness in my eyes, I surely made that obvious. I was always ready to catch you. For you to run into my arms, should you be in trouble. In doubt. I was there, always. You could have used me. You could have been horrible. You weren’t. I was patient enough, though. I was there. The whole time we knew each other. Through your genius, your presence. I was there. I was even there, thinking about you, when we all went our separate ways. For a while. For a while, I was there. And I know it was probably just me. Just me that was watching, and thinking. Only me there. I like that. I like the quiet in that. Nothing can move you there, it’s a staying place. A staying feeling. I wish you could have felt that. I suppose that would have changed it. Not so quiet then.

And after all these years, I find you. You, so different, so un-sarcastic and seemingly deformed from yourself, removed, so unaware and somehow one of them, those you used to mock, those who write on Facebook about how drunk they are, in unashamed length and detail, those who live for all that rubbish, live for the weekend. Those with faces like the one in your ridiculous driving license picture that we all got hours of laughs out of, sipping coffee and smoking in BHS. While it was legal. Legal but not approved of by our parents, so still a bit secret and naughty.

What happened to you, my friend? You were so bright and clever. It breaks my heart to see you now. What a tragic waste of a good brain and soul. My friend, you’ve changed. You’ve gone. I don’t know you anymore. But I did hope for so long that I did. I pretended I still knew you. That you were still there. With me. On that lovely wavelength. Where the world was stupid and we were brilliant. And weekends were dirty and caveman-ish, and a bit of looking down our noses was all we needed. That and aimless wandering through countryside, strolling and running sticks along wall tops, tugging idly at hedges and weeds. All that and putting the world to rights. Figuring everything out. Where did all that go? Maybe, just maybe, as painful as it would be… Maybe I never really knew you at all.

Letters I Should Have Sent #2

Dear Darcy,

Things do change in a lot of ways you expect them to, and a lot of the ways people describe. It’s always going to be different for you because you insist on making things yours. Everything you experience has to be more detailed, yet less definable, more uniquely tragic. You make things hard for yourself in kind of a beautiful way. No one else will ever have what you have with yourself. You’re like the cutest couple.

I promise you it doesn’t get easier. It just gets hazier. Enjoy your mind while it lasts, and be louder. And record everything.

With love,


Letters I Should Have Sent #1

Dear Mr Besson,

I am writing to you today to submit a proposal for your wise perusal and consideration. I really like films and I think I’d be good at writing one. In fact I have actually written a whole one and even printed it out for you to have a look at, look. (Behind this letter.)

Being a very established director, and my personal favourite – I knew you were the man for the job.

I have a particular actor in mind who I know would do our project justice. The very serious practitioner Gene Hackman, I feel, would be perfect for this role.

Basically, Gene would play a spoon who is dunked into a vat of sugar against his will. This is obviously a very demanding and complex role, one for which we would require Gene to partake in an intensive rehearsal period. I suggest putting Gene inside Stanislavski’s ‘Black Box’, where he cannot see anything and so is more easily able to imagine himself as the spoon.

I know some directors who usually work in a similar way, such as Mr Mike Leigh, who makes films using actors as rubbish as Sally Hawkins. So if you don’t like my idea, I can always go to him. After all, I don’t think Mr Hackman speaks French, so this is probably a flawed idea anyway.

I would appreciate some feedback on my idea; preferably between half and three-quarters of a side of A4, as I get a bit distracted towards the end of a page. This letter has been quite a struggle for me. Obviously I will take all your points into account when making my decision, and I do hope to work with you at some point, because I hear you make nice pancakes.

Thank you for your time. You can go back to your life now.

Yours most sincerely,