Online Shorelink Week 10

I sat in the garden this afternoon reading through this week’s contributions and found myself ruminating on what a gifted bunch of writers you Shorelinkers are. Well, OK, I knew that anyway, but sitting in the sun reading through 18 pieces, one after the other, I was metaphorically blown away by the sheer variety of this week’s work. The theme was Waking up in a cave with no memory, and nearly everyone chose to do that.

It inspired an unusual amount of poetry, nearly half of the submissions, and much of that was quite beautiful as well as deeply thoughtful. There was an eerie, expressively illustrated, reflection on our presently invisible cities, but the same writer also sent an uplifting elegy to a gorgeous rose. And perhaps that rather sums up the breadth of our feelings at the moment.

We received a heart wrenching threnody describing the plunge into blackness caused by the death of the person you love the most, and the slow reaching for the light, which reached deep into the emotions of many of us.

We mused on at a delightfully abstract fantasy of a purple haired girl in a veil, pondered on the spirit of the Shaman working through the cave painter, and were caught up in a long poem which turned the theme on its head by speaking of the memories of caves, which led to an essay on the meaning of suffering, whilst questioning if there actually was any meaning.

Of course, we had the lighter stuff as well. A great comedic look at the Beatles and Cilla’s first gigs at the Cavern, an ironic take on the advent of Covid 20 followed by Armageddon, and a perfect terrible (but funny!) pun combining cheese and bears in caves. (Work it out for yourself!) And a great skit of the current recreational cult of Escape Rooms.

Our moose hero was in great action man form, but happily still surviving, and we left another male protagonist with a naked lady in a cave (did I imagine something fishy going on here?!). Both of these stories are to be continued, we are told…

Our newest member gave us a nice melding of fact and fiction, set in WW2, and we left yet another cavorting in a cave with a friendly dragon named Basil – what else, indeed? And yet another used the caveman theme to send up some of his fellow members – hopefully they enjoyed it! In fact, we were treated to our usual agreeably eccentric miscellany of offerings.

As you know, this Monday is a Bank holiday, which has little meaning at the moment, but in normal times would have meant we were not meeting. So I thought perhaps a short break might still be good for us all, and am not setting a theme for this coming week. I will, however, ask Alan, whose workshop it would have been the week after, to choose the new theme for the following week , beginning June 1st.

I hope that is OK with everyone. Thank you all for your writing, your support for me and each other, and your wonderful continuing friendship and constant encouragement. You and your writing help to make this lockdown bearable.

See you next Sunday, when I will send out Alan’s theme.    Sally

Online Shorelink Week Nine

Jacquie set this week’s theme, and she chose: I have seen something very strange in the local woods.  As most of you know, Ro and I walk our dogs every day in our huge local woods so I was delighted and intrigued by this, and it certainly did fire up our collective imaginations. The stories and poems ranged from the horrific to the humorous, and reading through them this afternoon was a hugely pleasurable task.

I began with Jacquie’s own brilliantly written woodland sightings, both actual and illusory, deliberately very unsettling stuff. Then I was plunged into a romantic poetic fantasy, which like so much of the work this week, whisked me from classical mythology to traditional fairy tales. Beautiful.

There were several references to the Teddy Bears Picnic, including a hilarious updating of the song, and a wonderfully ironic take on traditional fairy tales which finished with a bald Rapunzel – I can’t get that image out of my head, poor woman!

Another journey through folklore was also a contemplation of the gifts of solitude which choosing a rural existence can bestow. And the dogs! Oh, yes, dogs featured largely in these contributions. I guess they are so much a part of wood-walking, but who knew what a Chug was until today? Apparently it is a cross between a Chihuahua and a Pug, and in one charming story it disappeared briefly, with its owner some weeks later discovering it had used the time to father a litter of .look-alikes. I think there is a pun in there somewhere but I can’t quite get to it!

Quite a few of the contributions were poems, which ranged from thoughtful musings to   seeing the woods through children’s eyes and also contemplating their more primal aspects. And one paid tribute to Hastings Jack in the Green festival, made world famous this year by going virtual, an unexpected lockdown bonus.

Our resident comedians really found their stride here , from the wood-living would-be super-hero (with a somewhat risqué name) planning a sky dive without a parachute while relying on flapping his long artificial arms, to another claiming aristocratic descent from King Erwig the Average. And I have only just realised, as the moose fighters prepare the technology to decamp to the moon, that the moose are addicted to chocolate!

And inevitably some very creepy stories – there be monsters in them thar’ woods…

Thank you all, such fun! And for so much really luminous writing.

Next week’s theme is Waking in a cave with no memory. And as the following week is theoretically another Bank Holiday I was going to suggest we take a week’s break and restart on June 1st when I will ask Alan to choose the theme. Let me know if that is OK with you all. In the meantime, I look forward to next week’s contributions.

Sally

 

 

Online Shorelink Week Eight

As most of you know, I save your submissions as they come in during the week, and sit down to read them all before embarking on this blog. I have just read all seventeen pieces, and I have laughed a lot, admired a great deal, and been left with the definite feeling that Shorelink is even more collectively bonkers after eight weeks of lock-down than before. In the best possible way, of course! The given theme of We’ll meet again, which had a certain inevitability on this 75th anniversary of VE Day, proved to be inspirational in unexpected ways.

Now where to begin, having been somewhat overwhelmed with your inventiveness? There were definitely more poems than usual.  A profound musing on the infinity of love was very moving, as was the ode to the long awaited returning soldier father. We had a quite delightful ballad to young love, telling of both the yearning and the fulfilment.

This was counter-balanced with a shadowy, rather creepy rumination on the unstable nature of life. But I was cheered by the nicely prosaic recitation of a love lost but happily then substituted with another, and also the glorious play on words by the same writer beguiling us with a loose moose in the hoose. Which brings me to our long running moose story, of course, and this week saw the blossoming of romance between the two main characters, a respite from the warfare. But we were plunged back into violence by another piece was an essay in betrayed friendships and revenge, with only a tiny spark of hope illuminating it.

However, never let it be said we are not versatile in our group. The kebab shop owner was hilariously and horribly brought to life (whale meat again indeed!), and another was definitely Shorelink’s answer to 50 Shades of Grey – or perhaps, pink, in this case? A nostalgic ramble down memory lane ended with an unexpectedly surreal flourish, and then there was  that dubiously handsome Count hanging around a young lady in a casino. Possibly to be (gruesomely?) continued, this one?

There was a suspicious-looking preacher who led us, and his target, down an unexpected alleyway, and a totally off the wall sketch involving an unnamed royal (who just might have borne some slight resemblance to the heir to the throne), who runs over his mother’s corgi and then tries to get an illegally immigrated genii to resurrect it. I do hope I have done it justice!

One of our members could not disguise his irrepressible life-long optimism (we are definitely all doomed) and gave us an essay on how the Covid plague was all our own fault and would undoubtedly finish us off. Just to cheer us up, in this time of revelry, I guess! But, to prove that some of us are still cheerful , a charming story of a chance meeting of four young people on a train conjured up the courage and the hope of the war years. Much of which has been revived in this present crisis, I think. But then, like Anne Frank, I still believe that people are really good at heart.

And that feeling is emphasised and embellished for me every week as your incredible and often outlandish contributions come in. Keep them coming. Jacquie was going to do this week’s workshop (swapping with me) so I have asked her to choose next week’s theme, and she has suggested: I’ve seen some very strange things in the local woods.

I reckon that one should get you going! Sally

 

 

Online Shorelink Week Seven

This week’s theme was What’s that Sound? and unsurprisingly several of the poems mentioned the Thursday night clap, when most of the country goes outside to clap and shout and generally raise a cheer for our beleaguered but heroic NHS workers. One of the hardest parts of this lockdown is giving the week some structure, and that national celebration is welcome landmark on our somewhat bland horizons. This week was special indeed as those of us who stood in the rain applauding were rewarded with the sight of a wonderful, vivid rainbow – the sign of hope from ancient times.

Hope was reflected, not only directly in some of the pieces, but happily also in the humour and downright absurdity of much of the work. The father trying and failing to shut out his children’s voices on a long car journey and the wonderfully eccentric brother, who when not blowing up the garage was filling it with hungry reptiles, were two examples of this. A wonderful, humorous, duologue, set presumably somewhere in the 50’s, on the merits (or otherwise) of the radio programme Housewives Choice, took daftness to new levels, as did the tragic-comic poem of the amputated toe.  And hard not to love our favourite fantasy character, Tac, slowly learning to read and too shy to ask his young wife where babies come from. A treat indeed.

We had plenty of action, as well. Terrorists in the desert foiled by a drone, the moose hunters practicing martial arts, as well as the animal population fighting off a black bear. Of course, we had our serious side as well. An enigmatic reflection on the quality of silence, golden or otherwise, and a beautiful poem on the loneliness of bereavement, as well as another poignant but hopeful one on a similar theme. And a quite brilliant scream on the inherent anguish of being born female.

I am, as so often, blown away by the variety and quality of your work. Thank you all. Tomorrow is theoretically a Bank Holiday, only relevant because we would not have been meeting, so, ergo – no set theme. So Ro and I decided that, in view of the upcoming 75th anniversary of VE day, and the inevitably somewhat muted commemoration, there was only one possible theme.

Yes, you’ve guessed it: We’ll meet again.   What else could we possibly come up with?

Until we actually can, and do – I am looking forward to reading all your contributions, which are helping to make the lockdown bearable! Thank you all. Sally

 

 

Online Shorelink Week Six

This week’s theme, which most of the group followed, was Winner Takes All, and, as you might expect the contributions ranged from the comic to the heart-wrenching. The beautiful weather and the flowering of this glorious spring obviously inspired some of the pieces, proving once again that it takes more than an outbreak of plague to dampen the Shorelink spirit.

I think I shall begin by mentioning some of the stories that were rooted in nature. Who could resist the tale of the nearly tame hedgehog, trotting (do hedgehops trot?) up to a back door every night for her supper, not only un-phased by a thieving fox but eventually bringing her offspring to the garden café? And this was illustrated by a charming photograph of Mrs Tiggywinkle and her progeny. Wonderful stuff!

One of our members treated us to eleven Haiku’s, and another impressive picture, this time of a seagull. Yet another gave us a fable on the nature of evil, sadly attributed to mortals and their affinity with killing. To balance this was a delightful, true account of a carer making a game out of self isolating for  her charges with learning difficulties, which led the writer into a paean of praise for the way the majority of people have reacted to the present difficulties, a convergence that perhaps our country badly needed.

One more true story was about the coming together of special needs children at a sports day, and their instinctive bonding with the loser, waiting, helping, and then crossing the finishing line together with linked arms. An essay in the power of love and empathy. Not sure the same could be said about the poem where two naughty sisters tricked their brother into an embarrassing outing – but even there the mutual love shone through.

There were some splendid stories, a delightfully sinister one of an embryo gambler not quite losing his circus of animals, a highly amusing one of a failed matricide and the unexpected consequences, and totally off-the-wall (so Shorelink!) set in the land of Agogagog about (wait for it) the Leather Workers Best Dressed Goblin Competition. Is there no end to your imaginative talents? Well, obviously not, as this was followed by one set in the land of Zimzim-Zamador peopled by angels and devils conjured up by their bored prince.

Then Chapter 11 of our favourite Moose story left us wondering who is watching our hero, Ryan? And, indeed, why?  I am sure we will be enlightened soon. And we had another chapter in the ongoing novel set at the turn of the century – always a good read. We had our more serious side. I loved the poetic musing on the workers on the Bayeux Tapestry, and the somewhat less poetic musing on mortality from a member of the group facing a very minor operation

I had just sat down to do this blog when we had a domestic catastrophe, and it was 90 minutes before I resumed, so forgive me if this is a bit patchy, but to sum up the week’s work, as always, you did good! Thank you.

Looking forward already to receiving next weeks, and Dan has chosen the theme, which is: What’s that sound? I can almost hear those little grey cells gearing up!

Sally

Online Shorelink Week Five

I can hardly believe we are in the fifth week of this lockdown, in fact I had to look back at our web site to check. I think I probably speak for the whole group when I say that Shorelinkers have definitely brightened our days with all the submissions for this week’s theme, The Music of my Life.

The theme lends itself to reminiscence and one of the bonuses has been learning new things about each other. Two of our members wrote about parents involved in Am Dram and music hall and the legacy of musical memory’s that this left their offspring. Also another two of you belonged to groups in the 60’s and 70’s, happily both successful enough to look back on with affection.

We had a variety of poems, a charming piece about a schoolgirl using phantom music lessons to avoid the hated physics ones, and a bitter sweet one of a waiting for the right partner.  Also a short piece describing a musical farewell to a lost love. And on this theme, our moose story diverted into new territory with a thoughtful  look at relationships, both romance and bromance

Spring played a huge part in our writing this week. Somewhat ironically, as so many people are restricted and having to stay indoors, we are having a glorious spring. We are lucky enough to have artists in our group and we were gifted from one of them with two wonderful drawings of bluebells this week, as well as a riveting fantasy poem about a thousand antlered deer. And there was another song of spring beautifully summing up the annual unfolding of nature.

There was fun as well, of course.  A story of the chiming of music and nature which was also full of hidden musical references – clever stuff, that! And another that held us to the very end before revealing that the chief protagonist was only six years old! Yet another took us to a virtual pub quiz – a popular way of meeting friends at the moment – and the quizzers Eurovision experience of null point!  A splendid black comedy about Physcho-killer was finally revealed to be a dream, phew!

A couple of you were enthusiastic enough to send me two pieces, one pair, in their different ways, thanking everyone who is helping us through these daunting times, and the other pair, a much more cynical poem on the origins of Covid 19 and a pastiche on the music of Status Quo.  All human life (and opinions) are welcome, at Shorelink!

So, onward and upwards we go. Next week’s theme is Winner takes all, and the following week I will ask Dan, whose workshop it should have been, to set the theme.

As always, thank you all. Your commitment to the group means more than I can say.  Sally

Online Shorelink Week Four

I guess this is the strangest Easter Day that most of us, or possibly all of us, have ever had. But thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we have almost all managed to wish each other  A Happy Easter, and reading through this week’s submissions today, with thanks to the same technology,  certainly provided me with a special celebratory lift. So thank you, Shorelinkers! Which brings me neatly to the week’s theme, set for us by Ana.  It was simple and inspiring. Write a thank you letter to someone, anyone, and be creative. And my goodness, you were.

One of us decided to thank every member the group for being there –with a single sentence outlining their virtues (and quirks!). It was a delight, funny but also truthful and heart warming. Another was a tribute to the vivid imagination of a member who entertains us weekly with his animal stories, and their somewhat over-enthusiastic feasts! And there was a  very clever alphabetical piece praising the glories of nature.

As nearly always, the humorous contributions outweighed the more serious, which rather reflects our real-life meetings, I think. After all, our motto is Laughter is an essential part of the creative process, and whether or not you agree, it works for us! Three letters from outrageous and mercifully fictional firms dealing (or not!) with some positively surrealistic complaints made me quite literally cry with laughter, brilliant stuff. And the paean of praise for the architect-designed pyramid which was to incarcerate the Egyptian mother-in-law from hell was hilarious. As was the forced naivety of the gruesomely murderous wife, to say nothing of the sacrificial offer to the ‘Holy Pope ‘. Probably best to gloss over that one in these politically correct times

Some were more serious. A beautiful unfinished fable, (looking forward to reading the rest of that),  an existential look at endangered species and creativity,  and two separate tributes to the  person in the writer’s life who had inspired them both to read and to write. And a beautiful and thought provoking ode to the ocean and the human abuse of it.

Our moose story continues, with a very apposite argument between the Chicken – I wondered if that was just coincidence? Either way, it worked well. I must also mention the funny and highly inventive thank you to the English language – and so say all of us!

I hardly like to add yet another vote of thanks, but I shall anyway – to Ana for coming up with the theme and for all of you for rising to the challenge of it.  Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday, of course, but you need not think I am letting off the hook. No chance. Ro and I have set next week’s theme: The music of my life. Interpret it in any way you like – a favourite piece of music, a piece that changed your life, or the music that reflects various periods of your life – oh, come on, you know what I am saying. Heads down, enjoy- I look forward to reading them all.    Sally.

 

Online Shorelink Week Three

This week’s theme was Once I was 7 years old, though on my advance notice I accidentally put weeks instead of years which, as it turned out, suited a couple of us better. It is always optional anyway, but our present incarceration seems to be encouraging nearly everyone to write on subject, and this week was almost a social document in its diverse depictions of 20th century childhoods.  Many were obviously truthful reminiscences, and just to add to the mix, this was also our 500 word challenge so brevity was the order of the day, as well.

An early memory of moving from the bomb sites of Woolwich to greener Eltham was fascinating in its description of kids playing among the rubble and the half destroyed houses of post war London. They were fascinated by what was left of the houses, sometimes just one remaining ghostly wall with a picture on it. Too young to understand the tragedy of war, it was just a great playground. Riveting stuff, this.

Then came a memory of being a child in a 50’s school playground. Bit too much information here, as the writer vividly remembers falling on that horrid gavel that was compulsory in those days and inflicted nasty injured knees. The description of the removal of the torturous plasters, nearly more painful than the original wound, made my toes curl up as well as making me laugh out loud.

An early longing for a bike led us through the writer’s life in seven year bites – and she still hasn’t got one! There were several references to the 60’s, mostly recalling them swinging, of course, perhaps especially the one set in 1964 which reminded me of some long forgotten stuff. And there was a wonderful, touching tribute to a much loved but recently lost grandmother.

So many happy childhoods, you could almost see the smile on the writers face.  Not all, of course. There were a couple of very poignant poems, a heart wrenching one of a family riven by the loss of all its men, another of the disillusion of the Windrush generation, by one who was part of it..

There was an intriguing and quite extraordinary piece imagining the musing of a six week old foetus. Then a poem, perhaps not as completely comic as you might think, on the nurturing parental responsibilities that are mostly impossible to achieve. Add in a reproduced article from1875 about child chimney sweeps and you begin to appreciate the diversity of this week’s writing. Oh- I must mention the cat called Murdoch who fought with a toad – no Shorelink week is complete without a cat reference, and a couple of nonsense poems for no purpose but to make the readers smile.

I fell in love with a beautiful, lyrical story, told in the first person, of a seven hundred year old oak tree. I loved it and shall now look at the ancient oaks in our village with quite different eyes.

All this work and all in less than 500 words- you are a clever lot. Thank you – as always.

Ana, whose work shop it should have been, has chosen next week’s theme which is below:

‘Thank You Letter’: Write a letter to someone – past, present, or future – to thank them for their positive contribution to your life and the outcome (could be a family/friend, role model, invention, etc). Sarcastic/humorous versions also welcome! Fiction or non-fiction.

 Thanks, Ana – looks good to me. Keep them coming, everyone! Sally xxxxx

Online Shorelink Week 2

I confess that when I realized the subject for this reading week was The Stolen Corpse I was a bit thrown. It seemed all too apt for a world in grip of plague. But I do the programme many months ahead, of course, and whoever supplied the theme had no idea how much the world was about to be transformed. So to change or not to change was the question (sorry, bard) and on reflection I decided that Shorelinkers were a hardy lot and would deal with it, as with the virus, in their usual inimitable way. And, my goodness, you have proved me right.

We kicked off with the theft of a 95 year old man’s corpse from a funeral parlour which turned into a clever and funny pastiche on the art world. Who would have guessed this man was literally a walking Picasso? Well, only the body snatchers. And they did return the corpse, almost intact. The next stolen corpse sat next to a lady who was searching for her lost dog and was being helped by a kind stranger. Both she and we were relieved when it actually did turn out to be a kind stranger!

In fact, nearly everyone wrote on the theme. There was a fascinating true story of the grave robbers who tried to blackmail Charlie Chaplin’s widow – I vaguely remembered that; truth really can be stranger than fiction. And a wonderfully gruesome take on cannibalism from our most consistently blood-thirsty writer! This was followed by a missing corpse in a gloriously surrealistic tale –as the writer said, what do you make of that?!

There had to be an apocalyptic one, of course, and this had everything – fire, floods, pestilence and damnation but not a nun in sight (you have to be a Shorelinker to get that!) Bob’s Your Uncle apparently actually was someone’s uncle though not yet a corpse. Some of us reflected on the wildlife, a sympathetic one of a scavenging fox, an affectionate take on a marauding cat, and a play on the similarity of the words corpse and crops all added to the mix. A witty poem mused on the Frankenstein story and we were treated to some more mysterious magic in another chapter of the moose saga.

But there was some serious stuff as well. A splendid poem on the famous WW1 Christmas truce, and an extremely moving one in memoriam of the writer’s dad.  I thought one poem, was so relevant it seemed a pity not to share it on our web site so I have added it to the bottom of this blog, with thanks to Kate.

Once again, well done everyone. It will be lovely when we can all meet again, but I feel close to you all when I read your pieces. Next week’s theme (and they are always optional, of course) is Once I was 7 years old…It was to have been our Westfield week and the 500 word challenge, and I think we should try to stick to at least the 500 word challenge.

So- keep them coming! My love to you all. Sally

Kate’s poem below:

Britain’s fast becoming a nation

Of social distancing and isolation.

It goes against our natural grain

And puts us under quite a strain.

 

No cosy chats over cups of tea –

Cafes are closed and so are we –

Compelled to stay at home, we must

Be dutiful and place our trust

 

In health advisors, government chaps

And in police, for should we lapse

And venture out into the street

They’ll fine us heavily, tout de suite!

 

But wait! That may not be so bad,

Let’s not be absolutely sad,

For now we have the perfect chance

To learn a language, paint or dance –

 

Everything’s online out there,

So now we have long hours to spare

The world’s our oyster, it must be said

We might even learn to bake our own bread!

 

We might consider doing more

To help our neighbours, folk next door.

We’ll help preserve immunity

By helping the community.

 

If we have to stay at home

We can at least contact by phone

Those who are in isolation,

We could be their consolation.

 

It may well be when all is through

That planet earth begins anew.

With eyes wide open we may see

The world return to sanity

 

A world restored to life and health,

Where people matter  more than wealth.

And things that once we valued so

Like trips to sunny Mexico,

 

Foods flown half-way round the planet

To feed the greed of the human gannet

May soon be replaced with local fare

And there will be enough to share.

 

We can and must rescue this earth-

Our home – and recognize its worth.

Corona is a wake- up call

And should be heeded by us all.

 

Let’s stop the use of oil and gas

While we still can – if not, alas!

There’ll be no seasons, no night or day

Only famine, disease and decay.

Online Shorelink

As we are unable to hold physical meetings at the moment, Shorelinkers made the decision to continue our group activities online until the corona-virus is finally defeated. For this inaugural week, our theme was Guess who’s coming to dinner, though as always following the theme was optional. The contributions have been coming in thick and fast, and I have laughed and cried and been delighted with the sheer quality of the writing.

How to sum it up? Well, with great difficulty, but I shall do my best. Here goes.

Inevitably, several of the stories contained culinary references, some more bizarre than others. And there HAD to be a reference to a soggy bottom, didn‘t there? I would certainly have been disappointed otherwise but thankfully Mary Berry was only mentioned as an undesirable guest! The dinner parties described largely regarded the food as an afterthought, as you would expect, the guests were the core of the stories.

There was a heart breaking story of a family meal where a mother saw the ghost of her much loved and .long dead daughter, and a poem where the angry young son of a widowed mother tells us just how he feels about his mother’s suitor. And an unexpectedly poignant one about an aging hippy and his dog preparing for their last meal together. And, talking of last meals, there was of course, as a reflection of these strange times, a reprise of the biblical last supper. This one took place on Hastings Pier and for the assorted guests the end was definitely nigh.

This unexpected reading week replaced Mandy’s workshop which had been based on inspiring us through fairy tales, and that definitely resonated through a lot of the stories here, so your work was not totally wasted, Mandy. There was a very bloody take on Red Riding Hood, a foray into a heavily disguised but doomed Babes in the Wood, and even a party with some drunken mice! Makes you wonder a bit about our culture, doesn’t it?

There was a splendid sci fi skit on robotics, a hilarious poem about stock piling loo rolls, and a piece comparing the lack of manners by birds at the feeding tables with the current scrimmage in the supermarkets – funny but sadly all too true.

Dinner party guests included the Pope and Donald Trump – regretfully not together. Though there’s a scenario to think about! And a delightful satire on the misunderstandings caused by not letting someone finish their sentence.

Not everyone wrote on theme, the moose story revealed an unexpected expertise in boxing strategy, and there was a lovely philosophical poem. And another splendid poem on the story of Ambrogio and Siliene –if mythology is not your bag, google them!

I can only thank you all for your wonderful creativity, and for your determination not to be beaten. Onward and upwards, next week’s theme, as on the programme, is The Stolen Corpse. Agatha Christie, eat your heart out?!

Looking forward to reading them all. Sally xxxxx