Jack Messenger | Feed the Monkey

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Writing ‘Long Distance’

Long DistanceLong Distance is a short story available free to all followers of this blog or my website. Please tell me what you think is good or bad about the story by leaving a comment at the end of this post. Thank you!

There are people who resent the present, prefer the past and fear the future. I sometimes think that way myself. It’s an unhealthy habit and should be resisted. Perhaps I’m a sick individual and need help. I don’t know anymore.

Now that we all have mobile phones, tablets, laptops and the rest, it’s hard to imagine what it must have been like when the telephone was a luxury few people could afford.

In the 1930s, even when a phone was installed, it didn’t necessarily work all the time, and I gather that even as late as the 1970s one could still enjoy the illicit thrill of listening in on other people’s private conversations. You could also suddenly be cut off. On the other hand, they had some really cool three-digit telephone numbers, prefixed by the names of local exchanges such as Radnage and Gulliver. That’s better than a row of numerals any day.

You’ve only got to watch a film like Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945) to realize that people’s accents were far more pronounced in those days (I’m talking here of the UK, by the way). The social classes as they existed then were rigidly demarcated by a whole host of factors, among the most important of which was how you talked. If you ‘didn’t talk proper’ then it showed you were poor and uneducated. If you spoke as if you had  a set of silver teaspoons lodged in your gullet it meant you were rich and educated. Today, accents have flattened out and continue to converge.

I like to write from the point of view of women, whom generally I prefer to men. Women have been oppressed and marginalized in myriad ways since the dawn of humankind, probably. Part of my motivation for writing is to recuperate lost voices, to pay attention to people who are generally overlooked or despised.

Long Distance touches on the awful accommodations and compromises that can be made when we find out too late that we have made a dreadful mistake. Parents can blind us to our true selves, despise our will to authenticity and channel us into ways of living unsuited to our personalities (I should know), and all for the best of motives – because they love us and wish us happiness (I sure don’t know). There’s not much anyone can do about that.

Do you like the structure of Long Distance? I do, although I don’t know how it came about. Still less do I know why it is set when it is. Perhaps the narrative needed to straddle the Second World War, so that a different perspective could be gained from the effects of the conflict and the massive social changes to which it gave rise.

People talked funny in those days, but they suffered and bled just like us.

Leave a comment on this story below. Thank you!


  1. LOVED Long Distance. Please continue it–I need to know more about what happened!

  2. Thank you, Sandy! I’ll see what I can do.

  3. I really enjoyed your short story, Long Distance (great title, by the way! Nails it!). I think you captured the nuances and tenor of the times and the characters (even in such a short sketch). I was left reminded of Vita Sackville-West’s wonderful novel, All Passions Spent, and, of course, now I want to read her novel and your story again. Thank you so much for sharing. Looking forward to your expanded collection!

  4. Thank you, Ginger, that’s good to know. I’m ashamed to admit I have never read any Sackville-West, but I shall get round to her soon I hope.

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