The ABCs of Grue


Suggested Audio Candy:


Tangerine Dream “Force Majeure”



I love nothing more than a good breakdown. There are 26 letters in our fine alphabet and each possess an infinite of different uses. Here is my A-Z of what makes a Gruehead. Alas, I cannot pledge my solemn oath that some won’t be ludicrous in the extreme but, should you be reading this now, then a fair clutch at least should resonate. So, without further a do or don’t, let’s dig a little deeper beneath the veneer shall we?

A is for Appraisal


It is all too easy knocking another for their willingness to put themselves out there and we’re all culpable of being critical on some level. When I dissect a piece of art which somebody has placed out there in the public domain; my first consideration is not to rummage for fault and instead to search for the positives. It is all too easy sitting on ones soap-box casting judgement when we hold no personal attachment. I appraise films on a daily basis and you may have discerned by now that the majority of said movies receive a score at least above national average. The reason for this is simple; I prefer to write with kindness than blindness. I grew up listening to critics and, while they may have thought that they’d won me over with their often cynical outlook, I was just cherry-picking the positives and leaving the negatives to decay. Anyone can be mean-spirited if they choose but I will always look to be constructive with my criticism. This is somebody’s passion we’re dealing with here; Troll 2 may well be an abominable movie on an aesthetic level but it’s also plain to see that Claudio Fragasso had the very best of intentions. A little perspective can go a long way.

B is for Belief


I have spent large periods of my life lacking this; doubted my potential and listened to a society intent on reminding us how much easier it is to fail than to flourish in our endeavor. It is the chief reason why I started Rivers of Grue in the first instance; to remind good, honest people about their own capacity and allocate belief wherever possible. A little can-do attitude can go a long way; once we learn the drive to thrive, anything becomes achievable. Without this, we’ve already failed. The key is in surrounding yourself with those whom appreciate the sentiment and harvest this in unison. There have been times when those that I have just met recently have not known how to take me when I tell them that I believe in them. I’m upfront from the offset with this reasoning: the shared energy between two like-minded souls is intoxicating and can assist both in attaining new-found strength. Two years ago I had no confidence in myself and now I scribe without fear of failure. I owe everything I have achieved thus far to just a simple dash of belief. It really is as easy as that.

C is for Correlate


Once we forge a connection with another, we then have the power of two at our disposal. Those two then spark fuses with another two, and so on and so forth until we are a thousand strong and only set to multiply further. We all depend on one another to a degree; not because we cannot manoeuver without others, but because we choose not to make extra legwork for ourselves. Together we are formidable in the extreme and I will always gladly depend on others. Sure, there will be broken gears, chinks in the armor if you will, but this is where the power of the many does outweigh that of the few. Should we all choose to depend on one another and not take it to heart when the system falters as is often the case; then we learn to brush ourselves off and soldier on when we hit a snag as opposed to becoming bitter and twisted.

D is for Demons


We all know these pesky little blighters only too well. When our fragile minds are wired as infants, it is invariable that a few bogus nodes will creep in and mess up the circuitry. These demons are cantankerous in the extreme; little devils that sit on our shoulder informing us that all is lost and tie our laces together whilst strategically placing banana skins under foot, cunningly rested atop rolling skates with greased wheels, facing a runaway escalator. I have entered into skirmish with these impish infidels on many occasions; sometimes I emerge victorious and others I am made to resemble an imbecile. Recently I have learned the benefit of acknowledging said demons; it keeps things riveting if they decide to snap furiously at our heels and I never travel anywhere without them as a result. I engaged in a short course of psychoanalysis while slinking about at the foot of my chasm and my therapist introduced me to many of my personal fiends. I’m glad she did; I’d much rather an over-familiar demon than an anonymous one any day of the week. Gotta keep those suckers where you can see them.

E is for Empowerment


This is one of my favorite words and one which sits comfortably alongside encouragement. There are people who have commented that it is because of me that they have started writing again after a lengthy hiatus. I am quick to remind them that they have done this all by themselves and all they needed was a little empowerment to make this possible. It all boils down once again to belief and we can spread that like wildfire just through acts of kindness with no predisposal towards personal gain. Paying it forward is my favorite pastime, reminding others that they possess all the tools to make things happen, sparking their fuse, stepping back to a safe distance, then observing as the fireworks go off. It truly is invigorating empowering others and there is truth in the claim that it is far better to give than to receive. The real kicker is that it doesn’t take much to achieve magnificent results; a gentle nudge in the right direction can have unprecedented results and we are all beneficiaries of others gaining the conviction in their own abilities to achieve the very best of the tool set available to them. It’s a no-brainer and one of the most gratifying pursuits we can embark on.

F is for Family

family texas chainsaw

The word family is often banded about and that is all well and good but it needs to be built on strong foundations otherwise the dominos can plummet at an alarming rate. When it comes to our bloodline; we are powerless in selection and required to make best of whatever hand we are dealt, be that favorable or flawed. However, the family that we choose outside of our birthright is an amazing thing as it affords us the opportunity of seeking our own kindred. The Gruehead family are a magnificent group of like-minded individuals and we flex together when one of our own is in distress or disarray. We may not be of the same blood group, our DNA may well be markedly different when placed beneath the microscope, but we share common bonds and are never alone even when it appears that way.

G is for Gossamer


I am the first to admit that arachnids with a greater body mass index than a perished pomegranate cause me to enter convulsions as though sunbathing on the red planet. These inhospitable invertebrates have a tendency to weave their webs in an attempt at ensnaring their quarry. I know this only too well as, a couple of years back, I met my very own spiderwoman and she teased me for weeks on end. Every evening that I vacated my homestead, she would run a line of gossamer across the pathway, just beyond the gleam of any night lights. It became customary to receive a faceful of said web each night and, all the while, my arch-enemy sat at a secure vantage scoffing. That is until nature played its cruel hand and a neighborhood alley cat cut short her reign of terror. As much as I deplored her rough justice; I have to hand it to her. She got my full and undivided attention by weaving her intricate lattice. I’m all about the gossamer; it links us all together, provides us the network from which we achieve. Incy Wincy even got his very own nursery rhyme for crying out loud. How’s that for the powers of tapestry?

H is for Humility

quilled_paper_art _1

This is vital to realizing your own exclusive potential. It can be hard hearing good things about yourself and all too easy to discard as I have mentioned already. However, it can also go to your head should you not process the data in the correct manner. I live for the kind comments I receive about my work from those who get me; that shit gives me all the strength in the world I need to soldier on daily. However, it can also be infinitely damaging if you don’t keep perspective. There is nothing less becoming than a person who lets a little success go to their head and I find it sickeningly wasteful. It can be hard learning how to take a compliment when you’re not used to the receipt of such. Personally, I plough every last accolade into my writing and allow that to inform my actions when creating any piece of art, whilst remaining humble and grateful in my interactions. There’s no great science here; just a little organization and the ability to keep your feet rooted to the ground when it appears as though you’re about to get carried away with yourself.

I is for Introspective


This is crucial Grueheads. Sometimes we don’t wish to look within ourselves for inspiration for fear that any discoveries may not be favorable. The truth is, every last nugget of potential is tucked away inside. I scribe introspectively in everything I do; always looking to relate and translate accordingly. This can assist others in comprehending as, much of the time, we say what they are thinking but never had the fortitude to share with the world. It has been commented on numerous occasions that it feels as though I am inside somebody else’s head when I touch on a topic that resonates. Truth is, I’m inside my own head, grabbing every last piece of mental laundry and hanging it to air in full view of anybody who will listen and appreciate the sentiment. I’ve walked the earth for forty years and, while still learning every day, I’m happy to share any findings and place them in the public domain. We all have our own story to tell but it is how we tell it that makes the difference. I select honesty as my angle and that is such a refreshing way to operate.

J is for Jurisdiction


When I commenced my pilgrimage as Keeper of The Crimson Quill; I chose horror as my chosen topic of discussion. The genre has fascinated me since I was ankle-high to a locust and the people that I have brushed shoulders with are amongst the most dedicated, kind, and generous, I have ever had the privilege of knowing throughout my entire life-cycle. However, for as much as this may appear my jurisdiction, there is so much more besides splatter and soiled bloomers. Boundaries need not be so stringent; why should we become pigeon-holed into only having capability within a single field? There is so much else besides the macabre and habitual bouts of comedy punctuate my prose every bit as much as my intention to scare. My playing field is vast because I find jurisdiction wherever it becomes available; never solely within my comfort zone.

K is for Kilimanjaro


One of our own, who you may be familiar with as my partner in podcast crime Silent Shadow, is set to embark on an expedition in August to climb to the pinnacle of the tallest peak in Africa, in the name of charity. That’s nearly 20,000 ft above sea level. Just saying. When he arrives at the apex, it is his goal to plant a Rivers of Grue flag atop the summit and that will be a truly momentous moment and one of my proudest ever. Of course, Keeper being the swine that he is, the evening before he sets out I aim to force him to watch In The Shadow of Kilimanjaro, a 1986 film whereby 90,000 famished baboons wreck murderous havoc amidst the backdrop of this fine mountain just to mess with him a little. He would expect no less from me.

L is for Loyalty


Allow me to explain what loyalty is not and place it in terms that relate to the Grueheads. There are those who ply their passion into creating art under the umbrella we reside beneath willingly. Said people are never taken for granted here or expected to remain rigid in their loyalty to the cause. Instead we encourage they spread their wings and any way in which they can attain recognition for their exertions is worthy of our endorsement. The moment it becomes a fascist regime is the same moment that you cease having their interests at heart. We all know how frustrating it can be having our sentence broken. It leaves us deflated; like what we had to say was inconsequential. It’s the same when the needs of the collective outweight those of somebody offering to share their creative passion through the kindness of their heart. Clipping wings is such a futile endeavor and one which has never interested me one iota.

M is for Muppet


Jim Henson was a true visionary of our times and my childhood was a happy place because of a handful of felt and some good old-fashioned ingenuity. Every time that curtain rose and his Muppets took center stage, I offered my full undivided attention. Had it not been for Beaker; then my growth would have been far less luxurious and pleasure-filled. He proved to me the power of the Meep; three strung together in unison were enough to provoke a bladder breach and, thirty years later, should his elongated head peer up from the bottom of my screen with those blank expressionless eyes and no discernible shoulders to speak of; then I will enter into instantaneous convulsions. Indeed Sesame Street provided the inspiration for this very essay and they’re merely knock-off Muppets. Having said that, Big Bird and Snuffleupagus are admittedly personal heroes and my first purchase upon receipt of any riches would be my very own trash can.

N is for Network


I may not have the vaguest clue how to reconstruct a car engine from scratch but, chances are, I will know somebody who can. Networking is vital to our development as none of us, no matter how pig-headed and belligerent we may be, possess all the answers. A jack of all trades is well documented as being master of none. If we focus on what we can excel in to the best of our abilities and accept that sometimes we may need to call upon others to get from points A to B, then we’re cutting down the wasteful man hours considerably. Every new connection forged offers us a vast amount of firepower. N is also for nurture and that is critical to us both initiating and maintaining these bonds. The benefits are unbounded should we perfect the art of networking and in turn nurturing these affiliations.

O is for Ostrich


This flightless bird is best known for its ability to bury its head beneath the sand when placed under threat. In many ways I am very much like an ostrich; if things grow hairy I am the first to burrow and unnecessary conflict has never particularly appealed to me. However, should you ever have received three burly toes to your posterior by riling an ostrich in close-quarters, then you will be only too mindful of the force in which they can kick your ass feathers should push come to shove. Sticks and stones may well lead to abrasions and painful gaping sores but vitriolic words disinterest me if I’m honest. However, piss me off to the nth degree and I have a rather hefty vocabulary at my disposal. Don’t you go fucking with the ostrich but, by all means, have a laugh at one’s expense as they do look admittedly ridiculous.

P is for Patience


It’s true that this is a virtue. We all lead hectic lives and each of us has our own assault course to traverse on a daily basis. I, myself, struggle to keep up with social networking as it takes me away from doing what makes others happy. Should we send somebody a link to a piece of work that we are post and they not appear to pay it any mind then our first impression is naturally to feel as though it didn’t resonate for one reason or another. However, there may be a thousand reasons why this was not so and not, in any way, intentional on their part. There are those who know me that have had to practise inhuman amounts of patience on account of me taking my sweet time getting around to something. Should these people get me, then they will know that it is never intentional. I’m always trying to come good on my promises, even if that may not be apparent, it is always true. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as impatient as the next man. But not when it comes to attempting to fathom the logic in others.

Q is for Quill

Malvern literary quill logo

Allow me to elaborate on why exactly it is a quill that I keep. Anyone who knows me will be more than aware that I love nothing more than a healthy dose of metaphor and my very title attests to such. It matters not whether you can write purty prose, paint a pretty picture, sing a song of six-pence, possess Brando’s acting chops, or are well-versed in jiggling those pom-poms; you still have one of these instruments at your disposal. The quill represents your own unique voice and it’s up to you how you that manifests itself. All of us aspire ultimately to the self-same thing; to spend our time on earth doing the things that interest us as individuals. There is nowt more despairing than spending your entire existence crunching numbers if you were born to sing or dance. The quill is of utmost importance; we all have something to say and it is how we chose to vocalize that informs our trajectory.

R is for Reinvention


I was commonly referred to as a clown during my school tenure and many believed I would never amount to anything. Then college dawned and I had my first taste of ambiguity since starting pre-school and digging my own grave gradually. Suddenly, I was somebody again, no longer the jester although I still held onto my clown shoes just in case it became necessitated for me to play the part of pantaloon at any given moment. Recently I metamorphosed once again and did so with the accumulative advantage of foresight. I know what has worked and helped me to appeal to all-comers but I am also aware of the frailties which have led to two divorces en route. Every time I bounce back from the brink; I bound back with more tenacity. How others perceive you depends largely on how you wish to be perceived; reinvention is basically a flowery term for learning your lessons and implementing accordingly.

S is for Self-effacing


Kids can be cruel little bastards and school, for many, represents the first battleground in life that we face, should we be a little different from the “cool crowd”. Consequently, many of us end up buying into the notion that we shouldn’t exhibit any signs of weakness, for fear that we will become soundly ridiculed. I make no secret of the fact that my greatest laughs come at my very own expense. Poking a little fun at oneself can be such a liberating endeavor and I recommend it wholeheartedly. You can still remain “cool” and still admit that you struggle to change a light bulb. It’s ultimately all in how you tell the tale. Should I come across a wonky paving slab and fall on my face in strategically placed dog excrement below then my first reaction wouldn’t be to sheepishly try and play it off as intentional. I would be the first own howling with laughter until I’m masticating my own snot while looking around frantically to identify any others that shared in my misfortune. Good pratfall need never be wasted.

T is for Terraform


Starship once suggested that we built this city on rock and roll. Infectious as their rousing number may have been, good old bricks and mortar invariably would have aided the construction process. Actually, my decision for the inclusion of the word terraform is down to the fact that its such a kick ass word and worthy of far greater social inclusion. Allow me to elaborate on its exclusive appeal. “I just terraformed a bed for E.T. so he can sleep over for tonight. However, I want him gone my morning. No arguments” You see how satisfying it is? If I ever get to Mars in my lifetime, I plan to terraform a small colony devoted to the Grueheads. We shall all eat moon candy, picked up en route, speak via mind waves, and play anti-gravity swingball on the planet surface. It’ll be fun; I promise.

U is for Ukulele


Music really is a most delightful medium. The ukulele, when plucked in the correct manner, offers a wonderful way of getting the party started. George Formby knew his way around what is effectively a midget guitar and he spent his whole life smiling wide. Indeed it appeared as though he had far too many teeth for his face to accommodate. I haven’t the faintest idea how to play a ukulele or virtually any other instrument come to think of it but I do love me some accompanying audio. Dancing offers sure-fire resistance against the development of arthritic joints in later life and I suggest we all pirouette in unison, just to keep the gears greased. Evidently I possess ten twinkling toes of my own with the assistance of strobe lighting to conceal every second movement. Music has the power to break down barriers and this is why suggested audio candy has become critical to the authentic Keeper experience.

V is for Vehemence


Otherwise known as intensity, I express myself with vehemence whenever making a point which I stand by unerringly. A little conviction can go a long way. Even if your audience doesn’t agree with every point you make, should you exercise your liberty with credence then you have done all that you can to influence a reverential response. I state with great vehemence that our beloved horror genre is on the verge of a Herculean growth spurt which makes it that much more difficult to discount. What if I’m right? Say horror enjoys humongous prosperity in the next five years. It could happen right if we all band together? Of course it can, nay it will. God bless vehemence.

W is for Wanderlust


I plan to travel as much as is humanly possible for the remainder of my transience. There are countless places on earth just begging to be explored, different cultures to drink in, new experiences around every corner. Being British, and knowing how we tend to colonize European countries of lesser financial prosperity than our own and turn them into the playgrounds for our least cultured teenage tearaways, I know the importance of refining our search engines to locales which offer the richness of homegrown heritage. I may not make it to all the places on my world map but, like Rocky Dennis, I shall make the very best of each opportunity that presents itself. Even when my body remains firmly rooted through lack of funds and/or time, my mind has that wanderlust in abundance. There exist no boundaries there.

X is for Xtro


I almost made it all the way to Z without a little shameless promotion of my guiltiest pleasure but it’s slim pickings once you get to “X” and, for as much as xylophones make a rather delightful plinky-plonky noise when played correctly, they’re just never as satisfying as Harry Bromley Davenport’s 1982 E.T. anti-thesis. Xtro is the only film on the planet, or indeed any adjoining asteroids, which can boast the following: the home birthing of a middle-aged Englishman without epidural, vengeful Action Man replete with bayonet, knee-high clown possessing wobbly hammer and razor-sharp psychedelic yo-yo, terrorizing toy tank, bad-tempered agoraphobic panther, and of course my own personal darling, a naked Maryam D’Abo transformed into a life-sized pez dispenser. If any of this sounds faintly ridiculous then I have done my job right. For the record, Xtros 2 & 3 were cable quality crap not worthy of any note whatsoever. Consequently, I’m giving the british director one more year to work on his rumoured Xtro 4 treatment and then I’m taking matters into my own hands. Don’t say I didn’t warn you Harry.

Y is for Youth


There is good reason why nostalgia is such an emotionally enriching engagement. Many of our most cherished memories can be pinpointed to a time where everything was that much easier. Back when bill payments didn’t cast a shadow over our finances and relationship maintenance become so complex; our aspirations were so much simpler. Anything which reminds me of a time prior to being burdened with the worries of the world is a distinct positive. Being a man-child is just so much darned fun. When I grow up I want to be a big kid; wear a three-piece suit embroidered from fuzzy felt, construct a burly stickle brick outpost and sit around swapping Garbage Pail Kids trading cards with the other children while making fart sounds with my armpits. I’m a simple creature at heart and it takes one to know one. Tag you’re it. Na-nana-naa-nah!

Z is for Zen


Ultimately it is all about focus. Should we marry body and mind successfully; then we are maximizing our reach. A great mind is indeed a terrible thing to waste but it is ineffectual without a body to drive any suggestion forward. I’m the worst culprit for battering my shell to within an inch of its endurance and would never suggest that I have found the key to achieving my own zen. I smoke like a Cherokee, possess the diet of an adolescent, exercise one forearm while allowing the rest to wither, sit slouched as though posture doesn’t matter in the long run. Bottom line; I am some way off finding the balance. However, I am forever learning; one day the penny will drop and I shall treat my body with the reverence required to live to a ripe old age. When all is said and done, we’re all just works in process. But zen is obtainable should we learn to locate our equilibrium. It seems only fitting to close with a common goal.


I may well have missed a trick or two along the way but I trust that I have covered all the chief bases in my thorough alphabetical Gruehead exposé and hopefully we’ve had a lot of fun together in the process. If so then my work here is done; placing smiles on faces is something which in-turn fuels my own grin. Right now I am as happy as a pig in entrails so I would say that it’s job done. However, 26 letters multiplied by an unbounded number of possibilities equates to many other A-Zs. Go forth and multiply if it pleases you; fashion your own run-downs, embrace your inner Sesame Street, break bread with Grover and wax lyrical with Guy Smilie if it gives you a sense of gratification. But I would advise you steer well clear of Elmo; word on the street would have it that he is hatching an evil plot for world domination yet still we purchase beanies in his image for our children. Even the great Jim Henson hatched a few rotten eggs and that seemingly unimpeachable garish red monster’s a real wrong ‘un.


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    1. Thank you brother. I couldn’t miss out those Muppets…or Xtro. How could I possibly exclude Xtro? If you cut me open right now…I would bleed to death slowly. But my final word would be “Xtrooooooo”

  1. Love this Keeper. Every word out of your mouth is like Stardust. Sparkling array of heartfelt sentiment, truth and wit. You know I adore your work and happily gobble all you put out and to be a part of the Grue family where so much talent abounds. I’m humbled to be called Grue. Fantastic piece!! Your Stardust light is glowing!! 💜💜

    1. Sweet Lesley. Thank you so much. I love stardust and if I can sprinkle a little out into the world then I’m a happy man. That’s how unicorns are made apparently. <3 <3

  2. I absolutely loved this! Just amazing! Thoughtful, humorous, philosophical and direct (and all this time I thought I was a patient person HAHA!). Just loved this BIG TIME!

  3. Thank you for opening our eyes and letting us drink deeply of your creative expression. Keep playing and growing with abandon. We have enormous faith in you.

    ~ Shauna

    Sent from my iPhone

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