THIS MONTH the Airedale Writers Circle pondered what January signifies, looking backwards to the old year and forward to the new, like the legendary Janus.

But how to rise above the cliché? Everything has surely been written about January blues.

AWC member Chris played and sang a song he’d written years ago on a songwriting course run by Ray Davies of the Kinks.

Ray tasked students to go into the village to find and write a song about Mrs Pearce.

They found her name on a gravestone; Chris’s song, and those of the others on the course, speculated about her life.

Ray Davies’s comment? “You should have written about the gas works”, meaning you have to strive hard for originality.

Humorist Alan Coren gave his son Giles similar advice: reject the first idea that comes into your head, everyone will have thought of that; don’t use the second, all the bright people will have had that one; go with the third because that will be yours.

A neat aphorism for aspiring writers but hard to emulate. I have a feeling my tenth thought might be edging towards originality.

Back to our January writings. Sure enough Janus featured heavily - everyone’s first idea.

Rita’s lyrical prose piece morphed into poetry, summoning Janus to help her do good things before “winter goes to bed”.

This led to a discussion about how Yeats also claimed that whatever he wrote ended up as poetry.

Second most popular - snowdrops, surely one of the biggest clichés ever, yet with everlasting appeal.

Eugenie’s poem retraced the familiar emotions in simple words that hammered home the hope: “A tiny nodding snowdrop just/Surprised me in the yard;/Shy and retiring? Tough as nails/to come through frosts so hard”.

Third idea - battle between hope and gloom.

Pat chose this with her poem beautifully rhymed as ever “Bound by January’s fetter/Hoping February’s better”; in prose she personified the struggle against the demons of low morale.

I wrote about the contrails scratched in the sky by planes enabling people to escape - but to anywhere better? Best to stay at home and grapple with those demons.

Then one member came up with her equivalent of Ray Davies’s gas works: a piece about her January-born ex, incandescent with Shakespearian levels of vitriol, tearing into his Sagittarian goat-like qualities, apparent only after marriage, impervious to her own Gemini gentleness.

She offset the rage by an account of the birth of kittens in the middle of winter; surprisingly none of us had mentioned January lambs, a cliché that hadn’t made it into our minds at all.

On a practical note, the AWC wants to produce an archive of the group’s activities since its beginnings over 20 years ago.

Pat, Rita and Eugenie are pooling notes and contacting old members. If anyone out there has any information at all please contact Chris Manners via

l The next meeting is at 7.30pm on Tuesday February 13 at Sight Airedale in Scott Street, Keighley. All aspiring writers welcome.