Mike caressed the worn woodwork in a way that he had never caressed his wife. Each dent and patch of sticky varnish rekindled memories beneath his fingertips; the chip where the ladder had fallen whilst decorating for Paddy’s Day; the dark red stain where Beth had dropped an entire bottle of rioja over a customer; the shreds of silver tinsel still stapled to the underside. He looked around the empty pub with tired eyes.

He had purchased The Captain’s Wife when he was just thirty years old; a derelict pub on the brink of demolition. Mike remembered as a child sliding on his knees across the hardwood floors, begging his parents for another coke as they contributed to the heavy smog around them. The pub had been a regular scene of his childhood. But time had eroded the decor and the owner until he could no longer maintain it. Mike, on a whim, decided to buy it, and with love and hard work restored the bar to its former glory.

The Captain ran in his blood like his current dose of morphine. It was the reason he got up in the morning and he could never shake it from his mind. But it was also a disease, eating away at his brain and crippling his brittle bones. The Captain was an addiction, and without his permission, Mike was being thrown into rehab.

He heard banging outside and looked away from the empty optics. Outside, a man in a suit was hammering a sign into the flowerbed, its crude letters sending a stabbing pain through his chest. It was like an invitation for the world to come and peer at his loss. A few weeks ago his wife would have been ecstatic at the sight. Well, he thought, you got what you wanted after all.

“You got everything, dad? This is the last from the cellar.” Paula plonked a cardboard box on the bar and began sifting through the pile of mail next to it. He smirked at the irony of her question, but didn’t have the heart to make a joke. “Yes, thanks love.”

Paula tutted. “More of the same,” she said, holding up several envelopes with “URGENT” stamped across the top. “I wish they’d just leave you alone, they know the situation.”

“It’s fine, love.”

“It’s not fine, everything’s-”

“It’s fine.”

Paula sighed. She squeezed his shoulder and said, “I’ll be in the car when you’re ready.” He smiled gratefully as she picked up the box and backed out of the front door. Silence engulfed Mike, and he loathed it. This was a place of noise and raucous laughter; the clinking of bottles and the smashing of glasses, the roaring chants of football fans, the tinny din of the outdated games machine. He’d give anything to have those back. But the iceberg had already been hit. The ship was sinking with its captain, neither steering through the storm without the other.

With a resigned sigh, he flipped the lights off, gave a last fond gaze and locked the door.




Atop that friendless hill
sits the monarch of the trees.
The crumbling crown of a castle
wrought with misery.

In disregarded splendour,
that once fearful keep
becomes a blemish on the skyline;
a loss no mortal weeps.

His walls provided hope
to the soldiers of despair.
But once their plight concluded
they stripped and left him bare.

No longer his might is worshipped,
No more do they fall to their knees.
The only servant who bows to him now
is the wind in the boughs of the trees.

The Critical Theory Dream


I had somehow secured a job as a Critical Theory lecturer. Which was grand; help kids learn, damn good pay… except I didn’t have a clue what Critical Theory was.

For some reason I hadn’t turned it down, and I found myself at the front of the lecture theatre, waiting nervously for the students to file in. They arrived far too quickly for me to Google anything about the subject, so I’d have to blag my way through. Critical theory. Looking at stuff critically? I could do that.

Soon every pair of eyes was on me, and I felt the obligation to speak. I paced in the front row and made exotic hand gestures. That would make me seem a confident and well-rounded lecturer. Yeah. I’d seen other lecturers do it.

“Hi I’m Claire… Erm.. This is the first Critical Theory lecture so erm… welcome! I thought we could start by saying a bit about ourselves.”

Nice one, Claire! That’d kill at least a good half an hour.

“So yeah… we can say our name, favourite TV shows, that kind of thing. So uh… I’ll start. My name is Claire… I like Doctor Who, Merlin, Heroes, that sort of thing…”

At the mention of Doctor Who, there were murmurs of approval from the students.

“Oh right yeah, we should probably say what books we’re currently reading too. I’m in the middle of…”

But they were already no longer listening to me. They were all now discussing Doctor Who, too loudly for me to be heard. I tried to get them to listen but they were having none of it. I slumped against the whiteboard. I merged with it into the background.

Eventually everyone got up and left, all happy and talking and completely disregarding my existence. I think my rather timid lecturing style had received the ultimate criticism.

If Only


But what if?
If only.
Only once more…
More often than not.
Not a chance.
Chances are…
Are you certain?
Certainly not.
Nothing makes sense.
Sense doesn’t matter.
Matters are out of control.
Control is hard to keep under.
Underneath it all I’m not okay.
Okay? The answer is yes.
Yes is a lie.
Lies get us nowhere.
Nowhere? I want to be somewhere.
Somewhere with you, but I can’t.
Can’t do it. It’s impossible.
Impossible… but…
But what if?
If only.

Apologies, Urgencies And Magical Tendencies


Come on guys, get submitting! 🙂


As you may have noticed, the January edition of The Writer’s Quibble was not posted when we said it would be.

We apologise.

We had a lack of submissions and illustrators. Come on guys! Don’t forget that anyone can write or draw for our magazine, not just Derby Uni students! Without you we couldn’t keep doing what we do.

But we’re not giving up! We’re just delaying this edition by a month. That means you’ve still got two weeks to get your poetry and prose in for the theme:

Urban Fantasy

So take your vampires, your dragons, your mythical beasts, and put them in your best friend’s house, your local kebab shop, or slinking across the rooftops like Batman.

Submissions should be sent to

Rules and regulations can be found here:

Also, if you’re a second year Creative Writing student, expect us to magically appear in one of your lectures, like…

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