Annual Jaunt to Middle Stanley
The Leicester Writer’s Club
Having blogged my recent adventures in LA and Coachella so extensively I had intended to take a break, getting down to some ‘proper’ writing, but my weekend away in the Cotswolds with fellow writers was too special not to share.
If you haven’t got time to read on, a precis in two sentences – Getting to know you, getting to know all about you, la la la lah lah – and – I’m looking forward to next year already.
My navigator and I travelled down the Fosse Way through torrential rain on Friday afternoon and we didn’t get lost once – all hail Margaret! I was very glad to have company and the journey passed in a pleasant haze of chat, laughter and scenery. The last stretch, through beautiful woodland, rolling hills and amber-stoned winding villages was particularly picturesque. We arrived at around four o’clock to a warm welcome and the immediate offer of a cup of tea, which all boded mightily well for the weekend to come.
I was shown around the farmstead, pleased to find it as charming as I had hoped (and led to believe.) The surrounding land is dramatic with stunning far-reaching views, some wonderful specimen trees (a most regally upright cedar and several weeping willows newly clothed in their fresh, granny-smith-green leaves,) a woodland topped hill, undulating furrowed fields complete with bull-rush bordered lake and gushing stream.
Our group were divided amongst the main house, which dates from the seventeenth century (if not earlier) and rambles like a stone warren over three floors, including a small tower with its own circular staircase and a cellar furnished with the original cider-press, and nextdoor, a light and airy barn conversion called The Cottage. I was to sleep in the cottage and I was very pleased with my room, my roomy and my lovely cobalt and star ceilinged bathroom. I unpacked, settled in and began to relax.
By seven o’clock all sixteen of us were happily in situ, our chores signed up for, wine and beer opened, awaiting our supper. Margaret did us proud and produced a wonderful coq-au-vin with tagliatelli which was consumed with gusto by all. We ate, drank and talked, talked, drank and ate by candlelight in the large dining room and later, removed ourselves to the shabby-chic comfort of the sitting room. Much later we all drifted off to bed and I slept like a log…
I awoke bright and early and enjoyed tea in bed, (thanks Siobhan – I could get used to this) and a leisurely breakfast with my fellow cottagers… And more tea on tap.
We all assembled at ten for the first workshop of the weekend led by Dave – Interview your characters: A way of getting to know your characters, unearthing new and unexpected information about them by asking some unusual, pertinent, or even perhaps impertinent questions. The session was designed to get our writerly muscles warmed up and our cerebral juices flowing. It certainly worked. We all wrote reams and happily shared our efforts. A few of the group zoomed off to find a quiet corner and write up their new found knowledge, inspired and invigorated.
The next session, led by Nick – Setting the scene through a sense of place and Unblock yourself through a look at re-telling a well known fairytale, was again inspiring and revealing. I have the beginnings of a new story, so thanks for that…
Lunch: A delicious spread of salads, meats, quiches, cheeses, breads, and more talk…
Afternoon: Freedom to walk or write: outside, slate grey skies and torrential rain. Indoor exploits were definitely more appealing today. Most of us chose to write, or in my case, write, snooze, tea, write, snooze, tea. What luxury.
Poetry Workshop led by Yev: Some poets are like exotic flower arrangers and their flowers are words of the most exta-ordinary lushness and beauty. Others are more like gardeners or natualists and prefer a less stylistic approach. An interesting analogy. Write about someone who has made a very strong impression on you. I began another in my sonnets series. All good stuff.
I had volunteered for the position of head-chef for Saturday supper and served up lasagnas, both meat and veggie and garlic bread, ably abetted and entertained by my charming sous-chefs.
More drink. More talk. Another late night. Another log-like coma.
I awoke bright and early and enjoyed tea in bed, (thanks Siobhan – I could get used to this) Oh sorry, no… it’s not Groundhog Day…
Richard led our first workshop… Adjectives and Adverbs… Out! Out! Damned ‘A’ words!
I realised with some dismay, that my knowledge of grammar, although vaguely OK, could do with a bit of brushing up and I wasn’t actually able to accurately detect all the bloody ‘A’ words in my own passage, never mind avoid them. Luckily Grammar-Wizard-Liz was on hand to help. And look you– two have slipped in there without a by-your-leave! When Talk moved to gerunds I must admit I glazed over somewhat. I remember the word being bandied about in Latin classes thirty five years ago but hadn’t the energy to delve deep enough to resurrect my (even then) sketchy understanding. What I did find useful, however, was linking the use of the ‘A’ words to pace. That was very interesting and is a lesson that won’t leave me. (it’s scarred me for life…) I jest. It was great! Honestly.
I took the next session, my butt happily ensconced on the ‘cushion of power’.
Blogging. And as you can see… I know all about it (haha!) It was an interesting discussion and I’m sure I learnt more than I taught anyone else. It would have been easier to demonstrate if we’d had an internet connection, but most peeps seemed to enjoy it and some blogging virgins are now keen to have a go. So… Job done.
Afternoon. Torrential rain and slate grey skies… again… so more writing and sharing and talking and just a wee bit of snoozing. In my defence, it was warm and peaceful and cozy, the sofa was really comfy, and thinking about the ‘A’ words had been quite taxing…
Supper: Baked Potato Fest. Double yum.
Two thirds of our party sadly left due to work commitments in the morning and we said our goodbyes. While the remaining six of us sat at the table chatting and drinking we were shocked to realise that the lid of cloud had lifted revealing an azure sky, intense as a mediterranean beauty. I dashed out and took some pics, which I share with you here.
Last night. Ahhh. Most enjoyable due to the hilarious and informative conversation, ladies… Quote of the weekend… What’s said in Middle Stanley remains in Middle Stanley, so… my lips are sealed. I tottered off to bed with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.
What a wonderful world.