It’s a lonely occupation, writing.

Not a team effort, like Consequences where each person writes something and folds the paper before passing it on:

I’ve done a line – now you do one,’ and, ‘Wow, that’s a good story we’ve written together!’

Instead you isolate yourself in a small room, or on a park bench or some rocks looking out to sea, push people away and refuse to share what you’ve written until you are good and ready.

61-2So why do it when it seems so antisocial? All right, there’s a degree of self-indulgence, even obsession. But there’s also a need for introspection, a desire to dig out the perfect words and combinations of words that express your thoughts in the way you wish the reader to receive them, words with lasting value.

But having written these perfect words – what then? Who wants to read them and how will people know they exist? Does anyone know who you are or what you write, and if they do, what makes your writing so vital compared with others’? You write something you think witty and original, yet it’s only read by your brother and great-niece. You yearn for conversations at the bus stop like:

‘Hello there. Here’s a sample of my work. Look, great word – barnacle! And see how I string it together with ship’s hull and cling! Fabulous, eh?’

‘Awesome! How do you do that?’ the stranger would say. ‘It would never have occurred to me. If only I was a writer too – the joy you must have hour upon hour.’

‘Well, thanks. But if you’ll excuse me – I now have more writing to get on with.’

The problem of channelling creative work spans all art forms. A painting or sculpture comes from the artist’s imagination, a design or invention from a fertile mind. But do they have validity or purpose if no-one else sees or uses them? Is their creation only a part of the artistic process, which isn’t complete until seen and judged by a core number of people? Does the work need to be in the public domain to have any worth, or is its value solely in the eyes and mind of the creator?

I do get self-gratification from writing, but somehow it’s not enough. I also choose to believe that my work may eventually be praised more widely – that my blogs won’t go unfollowed, my plays will be performed, and bigger projects won’t be ignored or rejected by those who hold the power to ignore or reject.pc web 5

Perhaps it’s a question of time. Many so-called great artists, composers and writers were never recognised in their lifetimes, the value of their work only attributed years after death, and even then its value waxing and waning according to fashion or monetary moods. Authors like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen fade from time to time but resurface to catch the imagination of new readers; with each new Government, schools and colleges chop and change ideas about literary value; and colourful marketing ploys can paint eighty shades of what a book is really worth. There seems no right or wrong.

Perhaps I should trust that long after I’ve gone, my tales of far-off travel will be stumbled upon by someone who cares; my pot-pourri of life observations in cafes and pubs, on trains and planes will go down as masterpieces; my tales of characters whose lives I fleetingly enter will become literary gems; my plays will be performed in forty different languages; and University Libraries will point dedicated students of irony and general madness to the section marked C for Costello.

Biographers will queue to expose how in my high chair I was force-fed tapioca; how as a parka-clad Lambretta-Boy I threatened my dad with a crash helmet and forever lived with the memory; how I sweated in bed for three weeks after giving up sixty Marlborough a day; and how I wrote a book about Bed and Breakfast that posthumously became a landmark publication for the leisure industry.

Historians will use my life trajectory as the very model for writers who fail to get recognised when they most need it. Politicians will fashionably latch on, prefacing keynote statements with,

‘As Paul Costello would have said …’

And in the year 2076 a lucky researcher trawling through a crusty second-hand bookshop will discover personal musings tucked inside an early edition of Utterly Undiscovered – and think,

‘How did this man go forgotten for so long?’Ledbury sunset

As more and more comes to light, and even my autograph fetches a fortune in Sotheby’s Auction Rooms, the estate will benefit too, since royalty instructions come with everything I write.

Sat on my writing cloud at sunset, I’ll feel delighted that my work ultimately brought such joy – and know it was all worth it.

Please send royalties to:

Account Name:                     Paul Granville Costello                                                               Bank Name:                          Great Writers at Rest (GWR)                                                     Sort Code:                            Already sorted

Tip: If you have just discovered this article, you’re the first. Keep quiet and get it insured.

Paul Costello Copyright © March 2014

UTTERLY UNDISCOVERED by Paul Costello. Hilarious tales from a Shropshire Bed and Breakfast!

Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions


Princess Ida – a Layman’s Guide

Dear Readers

In the tongue-in-cheek style that Gilbert and Sullivan musicals so richly deserve, here’s my take on the show I’m in at Hereford Courtyard Theatre, March 19th – 22nd.

I have to say that the music in Princess Ida is far better than any other G&S show I’ve performed in. It seems that by this stage in their partnership Sullivan, a serious composer, had grown tired of producing the fluffy music Gilbert’s lyrics usually called for, and sought a greater challenge. The resulting score has strong classical undertones – shades of Handel and Bach as well as grander operatic sections. The chorus lines are a joy to sing and the plaintive melodies in the principals’ songs wonderful to listen to. I hope you find the same.

Princess Ida Poster



And here’s a thing. For the first time in my life, at the tender age of 66, with cowboy legs  and a dodgy limp, I shall be wearing tights and Speedos – once I’ve found out what those are. If you’re a million miles away you’re safe! But if you live closer, you might just feel tempted to check it out!

So this is the storyline …


Act 1 – King Hildebrand’s Palace

Princess Ida and Prince Hilarion got married when she was one year old and he was two – as you do. The deal was that they’d get together properly twenty years later. That day has come, and Hilarion waits uneasily with his dad King Hildebrand and his mates Cyril and Florian for signs of Ida’s arrival in their kingdom.

Searching for Ida

Searching for Ida

Sadly, the only people who turn up are Ida’s dad King Gama and her three stupid brothers Arac, Guron and Scynthius. There’s obviously history between the two Kings – they’re like chalk and cheese and bicker a lot. Gama proudly announces that Ida won’t be coming because she’s dedicated to running a university called Castle Adamant – exclusively for girls. He tells Hilarion there might still be a chance if he went and asked Ida nicely, whereas Hildebrand demands that Ida come at once or he’ll send his men over to storm the Castle.

Hilarion and his pals are convinced they can entice Ida to come. With Cyril excited at the thought of a uni with a hundred girls, the three of them head off to do their best, while Hildebrand holds Gama and his sons hostage, threatening the worst if anything goes wrong with the mission.

Act 2 – Grounds of Castle Adamant

Lady Psyche shares with the girl graduates her knowledge of Classics and her disdain for men, while Lady Blanche administers the day’s punishments. They all rise in awe for Princess Ida, who theatrically rejoices in her calling. Lady Blanche doesn’t like Ida’s style, and thinks she should be running the place.

Behaving like overgrown schoolboys, Hilarion, Cyril and Florian sneak in unnoticed and happen across some women’s robes in which to disguise themselves.

They bump into Princess Ida, and find the disguise works well, though Cyril’s excitability is clearly putting the venture at risk. A greater threat arises when they happen across Lady Psyche whom Florian recognises as his sister.

They share their plan with her and also, unwittingly, with Melissa who overhears the conversation. Both are sworn to secrecy, but Lady Blanche wheedles the secret out of Melissa (her daughter), who persuades her mum to keep quiet by pointing out that if Princess Ida did leave with Hilarion, she could fulfil her ambition of running the uni.

Over lunch, Cyril has a bit too much Pinot Grigio and gives the game away. Ida goes berserk when she finds men have invaded her territory, but in the middle of a hissy fit falls off a bridge and has to be rescued from the river by Hilarion.

Ida shows no mercy

Ida shows no mercy

In any other story it might have ended there, happy ever after. But not for Ida. With no hint of gratitude, and in spite of Hilarion declaring his undying love for her, she has the three men bound and taken away.

Now she’s started something! Suddenly the castle walls are stormed by King Hildebrand and his soldiers, carrying in their train Ida’s three brothers, still in chains. He reiterates his demands, threatening to top the prisoners if she doesn’t release Hilarion and fulfil her obligation to love, honour and obey him as a wife. But Ida is defiant to the last and the story is left hanging on a very delicate thread indeed.

Act 3 – Courtyard of Castle Adamant

A fight seems inevitable, and the girl graduates take up arms. But they’re torn between their anti-men principles and softer womanly feelings. Ida is disappointed at the lack of support and scorns the girls, saying she’ll take the soldiers on by herself if necessary.

King Gama arrives, technically still a prisoner but sent by Hildebrand to say that Ida’s three brothers should fight Hilarion and his friends, with the outcome determining Ida’s future. Arac, Guron and Scynthius come in looking despondent and not at all fit to fight. Hilarion, Cyril and Florian, much to Gama’s delight, arrive looking even more unlikely in their girlie garb.Princess Ida Poster

A fight kicks off – and the girlie men have it! Ida is now stranded. With Lady Blanche waiting in the wings and Cyril and Florian clearly of more than passing interest to the girls, will the Princess fight on alone or does she fancy Prince Hilarion more than she’s been making out?

Paul Costello ©  February 2014 



UTTERLY UNDISCOVERED by Paul Costello. Hilarious tales from a Shropshire Bed and Breakfast!


Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions

2020 – Civil War

Mummy, Mrs Carpenter said I’ve got to think of some stories about the Civil War.

The Civil War? Those were hard times! There were people called Royalists who liked the King, fighting against groups called Roundheads who ––

No, not that Civil War! The one we’ve got now – with the Council.

O-oh, you mean the Civic War!

No, the Civil War, mummy.

It’s almost the same, darling. There are groups called ‘parties’ in charge of us, who shout loudly at each other and try to get people on their side. In a way it’s fighting. It started just before you were born.

Why do they fight, mummy?

Well, because they want to be the ones making important decisions.

What sort of decisions?

About what’s important for us and how much money to spend on those important things.

So, what stories shall I tell Mrs Carpenter?

Okay, you know the street up into town?

ChariotWith the chariots and horses?

That’s right. When you were little that used to be a road like the one that goes alongside the river past Waitrose and Morrison’s. But with the change in the weather – all the frost and rain – the holes in the road got very, very bad, and after a lot of shouting and nasty words the parties decided it wasn’t important enough to spend money fixing them. Eventually there were so many holes that they all joined together to make big, deep ruts, meaning cars couldn’t get along there any more. Just like the road crossing the little bridge over the forest.

So do they have to use chariots now instead of cars?Rutted road

No darling, the chariots are just for filming – to show on television. You see, the street is now a very good place for people who make films about the olden times, because it looks like it would have done back then. It saves them having to go a long, long way to old ruins like Pompeii – near the volcano you learnt about.

And is the forest for filming too?

Yes – films like Robin Hood and Tarzan. A pathway once went up to the town with lovely trees on each side. But the parties decided it wasn’t important enough, and let the trees grow across the path till it became a jungle. It’s the same with that new silver birch forest; children used to play there and people walked dogs, until the parties decided it wasn’t so important after all and said it could become forest again. And in another park children played on swings and skateboards with lots of flat grass to run around on. But that wasn’t important enough either, so they let it grow into a field with bushes and long grass full of rabbits and mice and weasels and curlews that nest there in the spring.

Are the forests and fields a good story?

Yes, you can tell Mrs Carpenter that the film people pay the parties a lot of money to borrow the forest and fields for their filming, and the parties can spend that money on what they think is important.

So, what is important, mummy?

Well, none of us are sure, darling. The people who do all the shouting don’t always agree what’s important and don’t always tell us why.

But why can’t they just do everything?

Everything costs money, dear, and they only have a certain amount of money for doing things.

How much money do they have?

BankersNot much. You see, in London there are bigger parties who send the money to our parties. But they stopped sending a lot of this money, so our parties had to decide what was most important with the money they still had left.

But why did they stop sending so much money?

Because the London parties got their money from the people in London who actually make it in the first place. And about the time the Civil War started some of those moneymakers lost a lot of their money and others decided to keep it for themselves rather than sending it to parties any more.

What are they called, the people who make the money?

They’re called bankers, dear. And they’re the most important people of all.

Are there any other stories?

Lots! Next to the curlew field was a building where young people met and played, rather than playing on the streets. But the parties closed it because they felt it wasn’t important enough. And just along from that was a Fire Station with two fire engines which could be taken out quickly if there was a fire. But since the parties thought they weren’t important enough to be in the middle of town, they made them find another Station many miles away, which wasn’t good if it took a long time to get to a fire.

AmbulanceLike ambulances, mummy. If someone was poorly, it wouldn’t be good if they had to come a long way either.

In fact they do, darling, because they were sent a long way away too. And the police.

Where were the ambulances before?

Right next to the fire engines – where Sainsbury’s is now. The swimming pool was there too, where the school used to take you every Thursday before the parties decided swimming wasn’t that important. That’s why you now go to the rain pool, where the water has collected naturally ever since the parties decided clearing the road drain wasn’t important. It’s very safe Outdoor poolbecause cars can’t get past any more, what with the water and the big ruts that have spread into that road too.

Is Sainsbury’s important, mummy?

The parties think so, darling. Just like they think Waitrose and Morrison’s are important, and the Asda being built by the new houses past the viaduct. It’s like the filming; each new supermarket has to give the parties a lot of money, so they try to get as many new ones as they can.Supermarket

Were things the same in the other Civil War, in the olden times?

Well, in a way yes. In the olden days the roads and forests would have been like they are now and swimming would probably have been outdoors. And those houses past the viaduct are very close together and stick out at the top the same as in olden times.


Because before our Civil War there were people called Planners and Building Inspectors and Environmental Health Officers who made sure the people building houses put lots of space and fresh air around them, so that everyone stayed nice and healthy. But the parties decided those people weren’t very important, meaning the men who built the houses were able to build them as close together as they liked without getting told off. That way they could build lots more houses and make lots more money when they sold them.

Tudor HouseBut why do they stick out at the top, mummy?

Well, because they look old, it makes them good for filming too. But it’s mainly so that the people who live there can reach out and drop their rubbish in the street, like in the olden days.

Why don’t they put it out for the rubbish men to take?

Because, darling, the rubbish men only call every six weeks, and if you keep rubbish that long, things like fish and rotting fruit get very smelly. It’s easier to drop it on the streets between the houses and let the rain wash it into the river. Before the Civil War the rubbish was collected every week, but when the parties decided rubbish men weren’t that important, people had to find another way of doing it. Do you understand?

I think so. Is it the same as people weeing in the street?

Well, kind of. Normally people wee in their own houses, but if they’re out for a long time or are old and need to wee a lot, they have to wee where they can, and let the rain wash it away. Once, there were proper toilets in the town which anyone could use, but since the parties decided weeing wasn’t important, people have to use the street sometimes. It’s easier for them in the evening of course, because they can hide once the street lights have gone off when it’s dark.

But don’t street lights come on when it’s dark?

No, the parties think they’re only important when it first gets dark. Once your eyes are used to it, they’re switched off. A bit like the olden days when there were no street lights at all.

What other stories have you got, mummy?

Well, let me think. You could tell Mrs Carpenter that you’re glad you’ve still got a library in the school with loads of lovely books, even though there’s no longer one in the town that everyone can use.

Was there one in the town that stopped being important?

You’ve got the idea, darling! Yes, and some towns also had museums, with lots of very old, interesting things to see. People loved browsing through books and chatting to each other and learning things, until it all became unimportant. And next to the library was a building called a Tourist Information Centre where people visiting the town could ask where to go and what to do. LIbraryBut the parties decided that was unimportant too, and made visitors go to a shop up the road where a man tried to help but didn’t really know how. It was a shame for people visiting our lovely town, although not many have come since the buses stopped running.

Why aren’t there buses any more?

Because the buses used to pick up older people living in the countryside to make it easier for them to do their shopping and meet friends, and the parties used to pay the bus people money to do this. But after a while they decided it wasn’t important enough.

Mummy, is there anything that is still important enough, apart from Sainsbury’s and Waitrose and Morrison’s and Asda?

Well, I do sometimes wonder, darling. I think people who need looking after are still important, say very old people and children like you.

So is my school important enough?

Yes it is, because the parties have said they won’t take any money away from your school, so you’ll still have all the teachers and books, and you’ll carry on learning a lot and doing all the exciting things you do now – even if it means the teachers do have to work twice as hard and the books get a bit raggedy and you have to stay on till the evening before I pick you up.

So tomorrow, when I tell Mrs Carpenter my stories about the Civil War, can I tell her that she’s still important enough?

Yes you can, dear.

Paul Costello © February 2014


Hilarious tales from a Shropshire Bed and Breakfast!


Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions