The Heavenly Chair of Enlightenment [or] The Throne of the Stoned-man of Ferreirolla.
I’m home... And it’s so peaceful. Really lovely actually. All the doors are wide open and the lambs are nibbling grass through the fence. The sun is setting and on the ridge a silhouetted tractor, a black cut-out shape of a tractor, is trundling across the peachy sky. There is one black lamb amongst a dozen or more white. I want him. I entice him over. He sucks my finger. The dogs almost devour me in their enthusiasm. Otto has been stripped, Bruce groomed- (thank you Michelle, as always!) and they look so pretty. (Smell pretty too- for a while at least…) I love going away, but it’s also great to be home. Thank you Antonia. It’s so special to be met from the airport by a friend- someone who’ll let you babble incessantly- like a teenager back from Uni after her first fine term of learning and drunken debauchery. Not that there was ANY of the latter… although a considerable quantity of wine was consumed last night, the last night. No… this week has been one of the best weeks for a long, long time, possibly of my life. I do not say that lightly. It has not been without its downs and one (maybe two) major crisis [crises] of confidence, but the lows merely serve as counterbalance to the highs.
I have learnt so much, thanks to the beautiful Jacob Ross [JR]
a superb and inspirational tutor, and the benign presence of Margaret Drabble [DD] and Nell Dunn [ND] (incidentally, ND is a very stylish woman.) In our first session we were asked to talk a little about our writing selves and what we hoped to gain and/or achieve from the course/holiday.
I said… I feel like a tap that has been lying dormant, neglected, for a long time. It has just been turned on and at first the water runs impure, a dirty brown. I know that I have to write it out, write through it and gradually there will be a cleansing, the quality will improve as I learn. I said- I am here to learn the craft of writing. I believe there is a craft and much can be learnt. I now understand there is also a craft in reading. Thank you Jacob… who re-enforced a great deal of what the fabulous Polly Tuckett has taught me… (Short Fuse Leicester- see link), and Rod Duncan of course,
and last but not least, the inimitable Jean Binta Breeze
I liken it to my own craft of the last 30 years- fashion design. I tell my young graduates that in order to create a wonderful, new, exciting, groundbreaking piece one must first learn how to make a dress that skims and clings and fits in all the right places with sleeves and a neckline that are pretty, neat, sexy, (for we all want to feel that) yet allow ease of movement, and ultimately, that people desire. One can learn what works and why and then, and only then, can one turn it upside down and be truly innovative.
Three little things…
1] I wrote a story in our first class that Dame Margaret Drabble and Nell Dunn [Full names required here for emphasis, not that Im star struck or anything...) attended and read it out, (talk about shaking, Beardtongue...) and DD complimented me on it afterwards.[!]
2] I read the ‘reveal’ of my story/novel, which I finally managed to write, out there, to the whole group on our last-night-party, again to DD, ND and JR and all my fellow literary adventurers. How fucking cool is that!!! And both DD and ND spoke to me about it afterwards- said it was a ‘powerful’ story. JR was also entirely supportive. So I did have ‘a few’ to celebrate! I’ve just got to get on and write it now.
3] People are amused by the way I dress and my clothes obsession- (and the stupid fact that I packed 12 frocks, 7 pairs of shoes, not enough sweaters and no rain coat for a writers retreat in April in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It does nobody any harm and at best… it can lighten a grey day. Plus, I like being amusing
DD, ND and JR are great people, clever and witty and part of all circles so writerly. I am in awe. But here I also need to mention Becky Swift, who along with her partner runs TLC… The Literary Consultancy. They provide a manuscript reading and mentoring service as well as wonderful holidays.
Becky is such a truly special person, knowledgable, intellectual, approachable, connected, creative, funny and a big bearhug of a woman. I like her very much.
And Casa Ana, where we stayed. Perfect.
http://www.casa-ana.com/ All the food was SO good. Highly recommended.
All of it, all of them.
Lastly, I need to mention my two special friends (as in special to me, not special needs) and new writing partners- Lee Wallace, one of the funniest, intellectual, culturally informed, yet least pretentious men I have ever had the delight to meet (Nick is a lucky man.) Long Live The White Angel! And Tracey Morton… an all round joy wrapped in considerable talent accompanied by Irish-eyes smiles and the most seditious laugh ever. I miss you both already and my life is richer for having met you. Our dorm night is a memory I shall always treasure
Nice… Really nice… So nice… Just nice.
View from the mountain above the magical ‘Threshing Circle.’