Wonderful Swanwick – nearly 300 writers in beautiful surroundings, great food, and more writing input than almost any human can bear!
It was my third time there, and it has lost none of its magic. From crime to short stories, teaching methods to character psychology, and a fun-filled agenda of evening entertainment. What’s not to like?
We’ve got a new gig – at [ Wrabfest ], a one-day festival in a village near to us. It is a huge affair, offering foodstalls, a beer tent, and two stages with acoustic and electric bands throughout the afternoon and evening. There’s something for everyone!
Including, of course, The Big Write, where we work with children to help them create stories aided by Ten Tin Tales, Story Trays, Story Cards and other helpful exercises.
Oh my! It’s that time of year again – the time when I and the members of my writing group cast aside the shackles of normal life with its responsibilities and tedium, and head off for our writing retreat.
We spend the best part of four days together, writing, chatting, talking about writing, planning our writing, and generally relaxing in the luxurious surroundings of our own (temporary) manor house in the country!
A French-blue sky, blue as cobalt, azure-blue, blue as primula, as … the sky. Stretching from horizon to horizon. The sun, low and hazy, brings scant warmth, but its brightness bathes the land in defiance of incoming weather. A weather bomb, about to explode on our shores, bringing winds, rain, snow, and who knows what aftereffects. But for now, people are smiling, saying “good morning, lovely day.” Because it is.
And it was. An amazingly blue sky, without a cloud in sight.
Fresh sand and clay piles high on the beach as a mini-waterfall splashes onto the sand. A tiny ‘swoosh’, and a huge lump of cliff releases itself and crashes milliseconds later in front of me. This is coastal erosion in action. I move nearer the sea.
The sandstone cliffs near to us are eroding at a rate of around 1-2m per year. It costs too much to protect it, so we’re watching it disappear before our very eyes.
The brightness and blueness of the sky belies the coldness and numb-footedness as we walk along the beach, dog bouncing along in blessed freedom without the restraints of a collar. She doesn’t feel the cold.
We walked along the beach, which made the dog happy.
The town beings to wake. A car creeps along slowly, as if unwilling to disturb the resident still hiding behind their curtains and blinds. Pedestrians, scarves wrapped around faces, their heads bowed as in reverent prayer. But their destination is not the church which, for the moment, has its doors closed, but the supermarket. Which has its doors very much open.
Cars file in. Seagulls swirl and swoop overhead, as people divest themselves of their unwanted stuff. I have some ‘difficult’ items, but find places for them to go. I listen for the shout of protest as the wrong sack gets emptied into the right bin, or vice versa. It’s anarchy on a very, very small scale. But there are no shouts of protest – the Guardians of the Recycling are inside their lair, refusing to come out into the cold.
Hello to the seagull on the beach, who calmly walks into the water, bobbing on the tiny waves. Tess wants to bark, but there’s no point. Hello to the man repairing the sea wall. Again. Like every winter. Tess sniffs. No food. Hello to the man in his 80s, with the thinning hair and a Shelty. He forgets our names. Always. And Tess is a ‘he’. But Tess loves his dog, and they bark excitedly at each other. Hello to the woman, walking slowly, with the overweight white Labrador. Her dog is over-amorous, and a nuisance. Tess walks on by, very quickly, tail pulled down. Hello to the man with the irritable and antisocial brown Labrador. She wants her ball, and no dogs around her. Tess views her with suspicion. She’s been snarled at before. Hello to the man walking back from the gym, his two border collies in the house. He has a biscuit for Tess. She is grateful, but wants more. Always. Hello to the fit man who works from home on Fridays, leaving his van parked by the side of the house. His dog, a mongrel, belongs to his brother-in-law, but seems to live with him. Tess wants to play. His dog doesn’t, because there is a stick. Hello to the woman who is working on her house. She doesn’t have a dog. “Bleedin’ nuisance, they are.” But Tess is always friendly, and she gets a pat on her head from the woman who doesn’t like dogs. We are back at the house. Tess looks up. “Is that it?”
I love the walks with the dog, and we meet so many nice people. Never enough for Tess, of course.