Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Handsome Warwickshire Windmill"

Windmills are the stuff of stories!
I once wrote a story about a family who lived in a windmill. There were 4 children in this family and one night they climbed out of the windows of their windmill and sped round very fast on the sails, each child on their own sail. Eventually the 4 children floated away, each of them landing on a different cloud... and they all had different adventures. I can't remember if the children returned to the windmill.......but I can see it in my mind's eye ( I love that expression!) ....exactly as I imagined it years ago. I was about 8 and the story's long been lost...but my fascination with windmills remains.

And last week, we visited my brother/sisterinlaw in Warwickshire. They live in a pretty village called Harbury, 5 miles from Leamington Spa. Fairly near is Chesterton Windmill, which can be seen from several miles distant. It was built in 1632 for Sir Edward Peyto of Chesterton Manor.... and was used until 1910.
AND I'd love to hear and see those massive sails in movement.......there is something strong and solid and yet graceful about them....and in this changing world of ours, seeing them move on that hill in Warwickshire, would be a timeless and reliable and very soothing a sight!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

" In High Spanish Mountains..."

Last week, we stayed in a house up in the Sierra de Tejeda, from where we watched a helicopter transport water, then spray a fire in our near-distance. Now we hear that forest fires in Almeria are causing havoc. Hopefully all will soon be well.

See my picture en route through winding unsurfaced mountain roads.... to a whitewashed village called Frigiliana ( also pictured). The route was wild and beautiful and every twisting corner afforded a more spectacular view.
And Frigiliana itself is a delight. It's origins are Moorish and there's a medieval quarter where tiles on various houses tell the story of the village. We had 2 long lazy lunches on a terrace in a restaurant in the square.... plus a morning spent at one of the best street markets we've ever visited.
A relaxing week in a superb part of the planet!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

" Andalusian Evenings....And Remembering Cornish Ones"

Here I am on holiday in Andalusia Southern Spain last week.
It's about 8 pm and the sun is still warm...but it's calm at this time and it's golden now and ( I think) at its most beautiful... AND I've long enjoyed lulling in early evening sunshine: sunshine when it's fading, when it's softening, when it's still lovely but no longer Full On...

This delight goes back YEARS:
As child/teenager, we had family holidays in St Ives, Cornwall. And each evening, I was always last to leave Porthminster beach.
This was the best part of my day. I'd hide away, waiting and staring and watching everyone depart...( loaded with their hampers, windbreaks, cricket bats, soggy swimsuits) and THEN ( only then) I'd lie in the sand to read in the day's final sunshine.......savouring characters and settings and plots... and ONLY after this, would I amble home (always by myself).......through the tangle of magical higgledypiggedy St Ives streets, taking ages on my travels....because I'd stop to peer at THIS ( fishing nets, the lifeboat station, a whole family rowing, an entire family laughing ) and I'd stop to gawp at THAT ( some pretty bracelet in a shop, a painting in some gallery, a lost dog, a very old lady sitting quitly alone )

And sometimes I'd bump into my father...He was like me: he loved "wandering", being a solo explorer, taking stuff sometimes on my way home, I'd glimpse him chatting to an artist in a studio on Downalong.... or sometimes he'd be found sitting on the harbour wall outside The Sloop, supping a beer while staring out to some distant horizon...AND I can see him now, my suntanned Dad with his amazing white hair ( white at 40).... and most of all, I see his bright very blue eyes.

We usually stayed with family friends in a house called Santa Lucia on Clodgy View.
This house overlooked Porthmeor Beach. The house was white, in style of small Italian villa; it was fetchingly scruffy with blue painted balcony smiling down at the sea.
In recent years, Santa Lucia has been been pulled apart then put together again ( renovated!) and it's no doubt quite something inside ....but I remember its huge sunny room overlooking sea and sky, its white walls, its vivid abstract paintings, its long squashy sofas ( where shells and sand and ice-lollysticks always lurked behind cushions) ....and I remember its tiny cobbled courtyard, the path where flowers and weeds tumbled together...and the long dark galley kitchen with its fabulous mural covering an entire wall...And I remember coming home at the end of the day, into the kitchen, where everyone would be drinking tea and unloading their beach bags and wringing out swim suits.... and there'd be sand on the floor and empty pop bottles on chairs and water wings on the table and everyone would be talking at once and our dog would be barking and a huge red beach ball would slither and roll against everyone's legs.....til someone would kick it HARD against the high courtyard wall...

But that almost-evening time on the beach WAS special. ( Cue for violins?)......... And I still appreciate this time of day when I'm away. In fact I appreciate it so much that I got through 4 books last week ( and started a fifth)...... admittedly at OTHER times too, such as on the plane and last thing at night...
1st book off was nicked from my son's bookcase:
Hanif Kureish's portrait of the end of a relationship in " Intimacy" ( I'd meant to nick it for years) which brimmed with memorable thoughts......then Elizabeth Berg's beautifully written " The year of pleasures" ( slight resemblance to Jane Juska's " A round-heeled woman"??) also Patrick Gale's new book" The whole day through" ( the happenings of a single day) and also Anita Shreve's " Testimony", about the effects of a scandal at a New England boarding school on the lives of those involved. I've read only one other Anita Shreve ( " The last time they met" with its stunning ending) but after reading " Testimony" I want more.
And the superb book I've yet to finish is a collection of short stories: " The People on Privelege Hill" by Yorkshire writer Jane Gardam. Her stories really are priceless; sensuous, comic, moving. They've got the lot...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Around Round Tables"

I'm making a habit of sitting around round tables!
Last night I helped a very special lady called Dilys celebrate a very special Birthday. We dined lavishly with lots of laughter at an excellent Chinese restaurant.
And as we chatted , we all agreed that round tables have the edge (?) on square or oblong...
And as you see, Dilys wore a rather fetching hat for part of the evening! She (like all of us, see top picture) is a member of Words/Biscuits, a writing group I started in January 2000, never dreaming we'd still be meeting regularly 9 years on.....
And I also enclose a snap taken earlier today ( see last snap) :
My W.E.A. writing group have enjoyed unofficial sessions this summer, courtesy of a pleasant pub in a nearby village. We meet in a curtained-off part of the pub....The King Arthur's Room....where there are tapestries and paintings and statues, all on an Arthurian theme.
And we sit around ANOTHER huge round table, each chair and place-setting labelled for an Arthurian character.
Needless to say, everyone's writing has been inspired in such illustrious a setting...and the fresh coffees have been appreciated too!
(AS has the sociable easiness of The Round Table...)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

" An Image To Recall In Depth Of Winter, A Launch In A Long Room And The Watching Of Four Tiny Water Babies..." ...."

I drove through the splendid gates of Eaton Hall (home of Gerald, Duke of Westminster) one balmy evening recently.
Not something I do often, I hasten to add.....But a friend and I swanned up the drive, meandering past ancient trees, lush lawns, a distant cricket pavilion....AND I SO wish I'd had my camera handy...
OF COURSE everything mentioned was worth a snap. But just as the Hall itself came into magnificent view, twenty or thirty deer cantered together across our path....
And this sight was MAGIC....the close of a sultry day, sun lowering, and before us, the dignity of a beautiful building...and then a herd of deer, frolicking together amongst it all. Mmm.

Shell Chester Literature Festival ( see was at Eaton to launch its October Lit Fest ( 5th-18th) combined with its Performance Weekend .
This is called "Chester Oyez!", partly because we have an active Town Crier, who stands at The Cross, midst of city...imparting his news and echoing "Oyez! Oyez!" to Cestrians and tourists at intervals daily.....

AND Eaton was a lovely place for this Launch.
Eaton Hall is a modern building, built in style of a French chateau, replacing a Gothic Revival Hall which was ( thankfully) demolished in the 60's .
We met in The Long Room. This is furnished as country house drawingroom, with sofas and paintings, antiques and rugs. We ate canapes in the Saddle Room ( diningroom) and we listened to 3 Performers (who will appear at Oyez! ) in the Carriage Room, also known as The Wolf Room, after painter J Wolf.

And before eating, we heard about some of the October visitors to LitFest:these include POet Laureate CarolAnn Duffy, writer David Peace ( Red Riding series) , Richard Eyres ( former National Theatre Director) barrister Michael Mansfield, Chris Packham of SpringWatch...and of course local writers, poets, including local born David Whiteley, who recently published his fantasy children's book.

But back to the Saddle Room: 1st Performer was N.W poet Jan Dean, descibing herself as an " itinerant poet". She writes mainly for children , appearing in schools and running poetry workshops.
2nd was gorgeous-voiced Shonaleigh Cumbers***. She's a Yiddish storyteller, who gleaned her art from her Jewish grandmother, a woman who survived the Holocaust. Shonaleigh learned from her how to memorise a story... and how to visualise it from different viewpoints. Shonaleigh is shortlisted for an Arts Foundation prize for her storytelling.
3rd was poet David Bateman, originally a Southerner, now based in NW. He says he's got a knack for being silly/serious at same time...and this trait was echoed in some of his work. We'll see them all again in October.

ALTOGETHER a fruitful taste of Autumnal treats......AND although no deer cantered or indeed galloped across our howeward path....I shall retain that lovely image within my cobwebs for quite a while....

NOW totally out of context: this week I visited a session of Waterbabies... watching 6 month old grandson "swimming".....and what fun! Like Baby Sensory last week, it's structured BUT fun...and the babes thrive.They float, catch balls, play games, disappear under water ( and come up grinning every time !) They're learning to enjoy water and to become confidently at ease with it. Great. Have a look at for details.
*** NB to Shonaleigh ( IF she reads Blogs!) : Please SING in October as well as tell your stories! We loved the tiny bit we heard...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

"Mulling Over Monologues"

The best Monologues use character to entice us into a new world. Opening words hook us into their thoughts and their actions. We get the "gist" of a character swiftly in a great Monologue....and probably his/her "problems" too, plus what's happening at the moment..... because the writing is efficient, it's authentic and it fascinates.
Dialogue flows. There are changes of pace and there's a rhythm....sometimes it's almost musical ( as with the best of any writing) and a story is told as a world is revealed....
Friends of LitFest recently enjoyed a monologue writing workshop with local writer Paul Kelly. He's a highly encouraging guy to work with ( talented playwright too) and all enjoyed this hugely. We met in a massive mirrored room at the top of a citycentre pub... at the end of a very hot day...but all worked hard "creating" work ( with useful suggestions from Paul) and we also welcomed 2 actors who brought some of our previously written monologues very much "to life".
We must thank Manchester actor John Howarth and local actress Barbara Jemmett ( often seen on stage at Chester Theatre Club) who gave up an evening to join is. We hope too tht Paul will appear again soon!
Picture: John, Barbara and Paul, taking a break from the action.