Some seek inspiration from the coo of their first born child, others from
the majesty of landscape, or from the whisper of their lover under the
sheets on a crisp winter’s morning.
The faded painted words ‘No Parking’ upon the car park near home in
Camberwell proved to be mine. From which words could I take a ‘P’ to produce
other words, I’d thought.
So, four hours of trawling through reference books: President becoming
resident, man-trap mantra, cup tie cutie. I can’t even remember how I went
about creating a Guardian cryptic crossword around this concept those
handful of years ago, but I do recall how important a single letter can be.
The letter ‘M’. How did it creep in to my conversation with the man in the
local hardware store? I was unable to show my face in that retail
establishment for a full five years after this incident.
I’d intended to buy a specific type of plug, or was it a light bulb? I can’t
recall but, toes curled back to my heels at the thought of it, I can still
picture the scene:
A hefty, lofty chap, expressionless, visage blanched by a career in this
windowless, soul-sapped shop. His looming hulk over me, all I wanted to ask
was ‘do you sell (this particular light bulb or some such)?’ But the rogue
‘M’ had crept in. I was unable to continue past that third, now mutant,
word. And the two of us hovered, silent. I had forgotten the specifics of my
intended purchase. At first he said nothing.
But the age-long silence had to break. He spoke: ‘No I don’t, actually’.
‘Oh’, I said. And walked out.