Kate’s Workshop

Kate’s scenario was as follows: You have just moved to a new home and are exploring the attic, where you find a box containing a cine projector and a reel of film. There is also a note …so please read the note, then set up the apparatus and play the film

The workshop was a voyage in nostalgia for us older members, but fortunately she had provided a photo of a cine projector so the younger ones could get their heads round this strange, pre-smart phone,  object from the past.

And what stories we were treated to, it was certainly an inspirational idea. One was a last will and testament spoken to the camera, which turned into a rather gruesome confession. Another found some clues to Santa’s secret store but was ultimately frustrated by ruining the film, and yet another featured a new householder who didn’t quite make it, breaking several bones as he fell off the ladder going up to the attic

An adopted girl found her own image reflected back to her, and then there was the rich recluse who had used the film to play a backbreaking trick on whoever should find it. A couple of ghosts figured, co-incidentally two of them bearing some resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, and another (unnamed) movie star whose flickering image would have made the finder rich if only she hadn’t ruined the film.

As always, there were a variety of tales featuring animals, spiders, a tiger, and some marauding mice definitely appeared, along with shadows and screams, the creepy and the heart warming, all there in abundance. Kate finished by throwing light on a bit of – filmed, of course – history. Those dipping cranes as Churchill’s coffin passed up the Thames on a barge. Who knew the men had to be paid to come in and do it? Well, we Shorelinkers do now. That’s one fairy story unveiled.

It was a quite delightful evening, full of energy and invention. Thank you all, and especially, of course, Kate. Tesco again next week, unbelievably the last meeting of term (though we have our party still to come, of course). Where, oh where does the time go? In doing some good writing, I suppose.  Which brings me to the optional theme next week which is I am not a ghost, you are! Evocative of a certain Dickensian Christmas story? Let’s hope so.  Sally.

 

 

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Alvin’s Workshop

Alvin’s workshops are always wonderfully whacky, and this one was no exception. Obviously influenced by his burgeoning film career, he presented us with a beautifully presented script, in the form of a legal document. This insisted that we describe truthfully our experiences of the recent alien invasion of Hastings, largely to ascertain that we were not suffering from PAITSD. That’s Post Alien invasion Traumatic Stress Disorder to the uninitiated.

We confessed the possibility that we might be showing some symptoms of this, and fell to work outlining our experiences. The first speaker confused Goodluck Jonathan with an alien, and obviously was in need of some therapy. This was noted for referral to the relevant authorities. We moved on to hear more tales of bravery and survival, though there was some confusion as to how (or even if) the aliens had been routed. There were various suggestions that they had been absorbed into the population, ready to strike again when the moment was right. This triggered some furtive examinations of each other, but happily there were no obvious signs of alienism within the group. But you can’t be too careful, can you?

(That’s rhetorical.)… (OK, look it up.)

Some of the confrontations had been blood curdling. How do you tackle an alien with two left arms and multiple legs, or with mouths at the end of their arms? Several writers showed off their historical competence by referring back to 1066 and all that, and one cleverly re-invented the past with a great story about William the Conkerer’s love of that particular fruit of the forest. The aliens had a considerable cultural effect on the group as they inspired no less than four poems – quite a feat in a ‘twenty minutes to write workshop’!

We visited planet Zog, we chatted to Amber Rudd about palm oil (no doubting Shorelink’s ecological credentials), we touched on Grecian mythology – though I can’t quite recall how Theseus got into the mix. We had a giant armadillo, and, yes, little green men. And the body collectors! But perhaps we won’t go there again.

Thank you, Alvin.  Indeed, thank you everyone. I think Tracey from Essex would have had a ball with all that. We are at Westfield next week, the last reading week of term, and the subject is Broken.  See you there. Sally

 

Tribute to Tony Berry, as read at his funeral on 16th November, 2018

Tony came to Shorelink soon after moving to Hastings.  Shorelink, for those of you who don’t know us, is a writing group which does not do competition, or critiquing, or any of that stuff, believing that support, encouragement and, perhaps most of all, laughter, is the spur to creativity. Tony sort of proved the point, fitting in like he had always been with us, and  then going on to publish four novels,

He became our treasurer, and he was soon helping to organise group meals, theatre outings and many other events. Having fun and making sure that other people did was important to him, as illustrated by the lovely garden party he and John held every year.

John and Tony became close personal friends with Ro and me. The four of us shared many delightful evenings working our way round the local restaurants and we shall always cherish the memory of those.

Tony had a huge gift for writing, and performing comedy. I asked our members to send me their tributes and memories and they have poured in, with so many underlining his comedic talents.

Here are just a few snippets from the many messages I received:

He was so kind, caring and encouraging but most of all I loved his humour which came out in his hilarious short stories.

He had a great imagination for a good story, and performed them rather than just read them, always standing up, making eye contact, and using accents and gesture. He was great at character and dialogue as well as storyline. That was the creative Tony, but he was also our Treasurer and supplier of drinks and biscuits, and had those under-rated qualities of being reliable and getting on with tasks week by week behind the scenes.  Always punctual and always there.  Also a kind, considerate and generous and modest  soul, and he showed so much courage throughout his cancer and treatment, still coming to Shorelink even when he must sometimes have been feeling rough.   ‘Respect’ is my keyword when I think of Tony

Our mate Tony, a lovely man who touched many hearts

Have been racking my brains for a suitable epitaph but find I keep going ‘over the top.’ Besides, what can I add to the heartfelt statements from his friends who have known him a lot longer than I.  What I do know is that he was a damn fine chap, full of energy and enthusiasm and a brilliant raconteur, even if most of his female characters were called Tracy and came (with the broadest of accents) from Essex. And who can forget his outrageous poke at the Eurovision song contest, and also his wildly inept ‘Agent Quinn’ It is not only our Group who are the poorer with his death but the whole writing fraternity and he’ll be an impossible act to follow.

Tony was a kind man, always ready to offer lifts to people like myself who don’t drive

– Tony didn’t just read his stories – he performed them!  His brilliant characterisation  brought them to life with appropriate accents and gestures!!

We will always remember his bravery in announcing his cancer to the group and our stunned silence followed by an outpouring of support and love for him

His personality and his funny stories—and just his presence around the table—will be sadly missed. No matter how many members attend and how many chairs are full, there will always be an empty one

One of our members, Kate, wrote this on Nov 9th

For Tony
There is a whole slice of time

Filled with people, places, objects

He will never see.

Things will happen

And still the world will turn,

Like a carousel, endlessly.

 

We ride that carousel

Until our own time comes around

And we step down,

Make way for other riders

So we can become

Locked in the universal,

The eternal light

Of the stars – as he is now –

And cannot be forgotten,

Seen in that diamond studded night,

Or in the sun’s rising.

 

We loved you, Tony, and we will hold you in our hearts and memories forever.

 

.

Mandy and Dan’s Workshop

When I was a kid, before discussing the previous evening’s telly became de rigueur, confined to the class rooms on rainy days, we often used to play Consequences. I doubt anybody much plays it nowadays, so it was a special joy to have a workshop based on the idea. Now, for the uninitiated, this is how it goes.

You are given a blank piece of paper, and you write a name on the top of it. Any name, fact or fiction, whatever takes your fancy. Then you fold over the paper to hide it and pass it to the next person, who writes met and then adds another name. Getting there? Pay attention, please! This is then hidden and passed on. The next person adds a place, folds and passes on, followed by what happened then and lastly, a final line.  Two names, a place, an event and then the consequence.

So you now have five unrelated pieces of writing and again this is passed on, to the next person who unfolds the paper and tries to make sense of the contents. Or, for the purposes of this workshop, uses it to inspire a poem, a piece of prose – or possibly a nervous breakdown. Happily, the latter did not happen.

In fact the work that emerged was often hilarious, always interesting, and certainly stretched us. Creative writing indeed.  I have picked out some of my favourites to mention here. I loved idea of the Queen having a day off, incognito, and deciding on her travels to trade Phillip in for a younger model.  Boris Johnson  (aka Morris Morrison in one piece!) appeared with startling regularity, make of that what you will. And who could forget Ferret Gump?! There was a play on Rimbaud, the French poet, and Rambo of more recent fame, Ada Lovelace and some ghosts flitted through, along with Genghis Khan, Garfield, Bambi, and Frank Sinatra. Oh, and among the countless others was Jacob Rees Mogg and a vegan beefeater. And an inspired poem that was so good I wish I could remember it and reproduce it here.

I can’t really do justice to the variety of the ideas and the delightful exuberance of the evening. Our thanks to Mandy and Dan, you did good!!

Tesco again next week, a reading week and the optional theme is A monologue – see you there.    Sally

500 Word Evening

We had our first 500 word evening in March, and it was so successful we decided to repeat it.  Once  again, we were able to have it at the New Inn in Westfield and treat ourselves to a delicious 2 course supper at the same time – necessary for keeping  our collective strength up!

I asked for some emails saying how members felt about the event, and below are some of their (slightly edited!) comments:

What a convivial evening – as always full of fun but with the added pleasure of a good meal!  It’s surprising what can be packed into 500 words – sometimes it seems that less is more.

We were saying on the way home that we thought it was the best evening yet at the New Inn. Really enjoyed the stories and the staff surpassed themselves with both food and service. An interesting and wide selection of stories and styles. Thank you to everyone involved in arranging such a splendid evening.

 Well, what can I say that hasn’t already  been said!  How about  ‘marvellous food, excellent friendly service, scintillating stories and lovely people!’

 

I really enjoyed the 500 word evening. I liked the story about the slugs (an interesting perspective), the one about the lost socks (a fun idea with a twist of surreal) and the piece about smells and tastes. Also your story about your childhood, in which your reminiscences about your grandmother reminded me of my own amazing ‘Grandpa’ too.

500 words is enough to ‘get your teeth into’ without it being too long-winded.

I agree with every word! And would like to add my own special thanks to our hard working administrator and our acting treasurer, and to Patrick and his lovely staff at the New Inn’

Back at Tesco next week for a reading week, and the optional theme is Who’s eaten all the prunes? Best of luck with that! See you there. Sally

 

 

 

 

Sian’s Workshop

This was an inspirational work shop. I have copied the instructions Sian gave us below in italics, as, for once, I remembered to keep them for just this purpose..

Ralph was very tall and thin. He had blue eyes, brown hair that showed the first signs of turning grey and really long legs. He had a sad smile though, which always made Emily want to hug him. He was nice too—at least, Emily thought so. When she passed his desk carrying the post every morning, he always said ‘hello’, unlike everyone else in his office. Emily didn’t mind being ignored by the others. She knew how ordinary she was (how she looked, how she dressed and her boring little job) and didn’t really expect to be noticed. Whenever she was having a bad day, she’d walk past Ralph’s desk and his greeting would make her feel happy. Emily had had a lot of bad days recently.

Your task is to do any one of these things (or more than one, if you’d like to):

 1) Re-write the above, but expand on it and make it more interesting to read.

  2) Tell me about why Emily has had such a lot of bad days lately.

 3) Tell me Ralph’s side of the story, including what he thinks of Emily.

 4) Start where my story left off and tell me what happens to Emily next…

As regular readers of this blog will know, Shorelinkers need no second bidding to rise to a challenge such as this. And what a variety of work was triggered. How could you not love the Emily who was weirdly phobic , not only unable to make friends with anyone whose name possessed more than five letters, and planned all excursions around routes with fives in the road numbers? She was eventually liberated by the chaos of barking no-name dogs, but somewhere there I lost the (quite delightful) plot!

And what about the secret relationship between Emily and Ralph, orchestrated by the positioning of coffee mugs on their desks? You sort of knew it would end badly – and it did. There was a funny and highly inventive skit inspired, I guess, by recent events in Salisbury , starring two incompetent Russian spies with very dodgy accents. Lovely stuff! Oh, and the one where Ralph turned out to be Jack the Ripper (bit of a time slip there!). Two similar stories had Ralph as his mother’s carer and another placed Emily in a comparable position. And there was a very clever poem triggered by the number of words that rhyme with daze – or was that days?

There were eighteen tales in all, cats, coincidentally, figured often, to the extent that they were finally greeted with cat-calls (sorry) of Not another poor moggie?  The stories  encompassed the usual serendipitous  and eccentric thought process of the group, Comedy, tragedy, romance, we covered it all, featuring everything from a dead goldfish to sexy knickers . Oh, and some aardvarks.  You had to be there.

Great evening, Sian. Thank you so much, you did good.

Next week we are at Westfield for another 500 word evening, as the first one was so popular. The optional theme is The Stranger.

See you there. Sally

 

 

 

Jim’s Workshop

It was bound to be fun, wasn’t it? I mean, here is a man whose booming laugh and twinkling sense of humour is positively contagious. So I assumed that fun was inevitable, and, happily, I was proved right.

The instructions were simple and to the point: Get together in groups, please, and write a three minute segment for a soap opera.  In fairness, this was backed up by a considerable amount of helpful notes, with ideas and directions. And, whatever else we did, we were to finish it on a cliff hanger.

The first group set their script in a school, with an ongoing investigation into a suspect relationship.  A dodgy headmistress, an absent girl, two policemen, a maternal intervention and a suspicion of rampant and illegal lesbianism hovering over the whole thing. Culminating in, wait for it, a missing passport – so where is the absent girl, we ask?

The second group set their script round a newspaper. With the headline story of the town’s mayor being threatened by a bomber and their chief reporter off sick with what they all suspected was a hangover. To compound their problem the paper’s editor and owner was suspected of laundering dirty money. And then there was a sub-plot to do with illegal immigrants. Finally, a cry went up in the newsroom: What are we going to do?! What indeed?

The third group chose the Up and Away Travel Agency for their soap segment. It was staffed by an incompetent, struggling manager who found it hard to treat his customers with respect, Peggy, the cleaner, an elderly and (hopefully) recovering alcoholic, and Miriam an assistant. 17 year old Dezz (spelt with a double z, to show how cool he was) was pressuring Miriam to hand him the keys of the agency to help his ill sister. The sister was a lie, of course, we knew he was a villain, cool or not. The agency also laundered money, Japanese yen in particular, so there was a lot of dosh on the premises. The dramatic conclusion – with Dezz going about his wicked ways, Peggy the cleaner, alone in the office one dark night, glimpses figures approaching and screams loudly… but did anyone hear her?

And, finally, the fourth group, which was undoubtedly the most unruly of the evening. Announcing that the only soap they were familiar with was The Archers, they proceeded to improvise a skit.  This took place in the village shop, where Susan and Clarrie were discussing breaking news that a factory was to be built in Ambridge. The two women were anxious to discover what the factory would be for, when Joe Grundy appeared and announced the land it was to be on would ruin his mangelwurzels. Following some conversation about these, on entering the shop, an intercession by Brian caused some further discord when it was discovered that he had money in the project.  And it was going to manufacture, not as Clarrie hoped, designer dresses, but… and here the audience had to guess what.  And they did. Very successfully. Fade out to theme tune.

So – well done and thank you, Jim, a great idea and it certainly triggered some imaginative scenarios.

Reading week next week optional theme, You win again. Looking forward to it already.

See you at Tesco    Sally

 

Ro’s Workshop

Ro’s workshops are always popular and last night was no exception. It was an unusually straightforward one for our resident joker. He gave us a list of collective nouns, some he had made up and some that were real, and it was very hard to tell which was which. But our task was to write a piece that included some or all of them and also to make up a few of our own.  Some of our examples were: a drone of vicars, an odium of politicians ,a twitter of nuns, and a body of pathologists. I am sure you get the idea. Warning, it becomes a bit compulsive. I had to have a blood test today and found myself wondering as I waited if the suitable collective was a haemorrhage of phlebotomists – so beware!

Everyone fell to with a will. Because of our numbers, there was a mere 15 minutes to write in, and as always the standard was amazingly high.. We kicked off with a poem that managed to be funny and rhythmical and really rather lovely, so good in fact the rest of us were slightly intimidated. But not for long. The offerings came thick and fast and were a great demonstration of the power of imagination.

There was a poem based on the abstraction of artists, a splendid one featuring a TV evangelist (sorry, can’t remember the collective noun), but evangelist was one of the ones we were asked to invent a collective for and the suggestions were many and various. I also loved a Beatitude of Beatniks, and there was a delightful story around an Expectation of Princes starring a pair of dogs called Prince.

And what about the surrealistic autobiography of an ice cream?! Enough to make sure you never bit into a cornet again! As always, so many memorable pieces, a children’s story complete with giants, an essay on Hastings as a sin free city (!), a fairy tale of sorts ending in  a pay off, a cheeky story of PYO contraception, and even one involving a German u-boat in 1945.  And quite a few that were both simply and complicatedly, a play on words.

So, yes, it was fun, and it did stretch us. Thank you, Ro. Next week is a reading week, and optional theme is Where do we go from here? Should be interesting to find out. We are Tesco again, see you there. Sally

 

Stephen’s Quiz

As old hands will know, we always start the new Shorelink year with a quiz. This is partly because it is a fun way to kick off, and partly as a tribute to Bill, who died suddenly and much too young, and was responsible for the idea originally. Every year we remember with a mixture of hilarity, horror and affection his inaugural quiz, which was on the Periodic Table. Having survived that, we figured we could survive anything.

But when I read through Stephen’s quiz, delivered to me a few days before, panic set in again. Do not misunderstand – it was a splendid set of questions which he had obviously laboured over with considerable diligence and imagination. It was just that it was, well, hard. Indeed, very hard.

Stephen had taken the precaution of going on holiday so I was unable to discuss diluting it with him. I posed a couple of the questions to a fellow Shorelinker, and after a stunned silence, she said: Have you thought of making it multiple choice? I hadn’t, but I fell on the suggestion like manna from heaven. Every spare moment in the next couple of days was spent turning each answer into three possible answers. Ro piled in with gusto, and some rather unprintable suggestions.

The result, judging by last night’s response and this morning’s emails, seems to have been a hugely successful evening. There was considerable laughter and some stretching of the little grey cells, and at the final count, out of approximately one hundred questions, between the  highest and the lowest of the three tables competing, there was a mere four points!

So well done everyone, especially Stephen. Thank you, you did good!

Next week is Ro’s workshop, and we are at Tesco.  See you there. Sally

August Update

August, as always, has whizzed by.  We had our first garden party on the 12th and ironically, the day before, found ourselves worrying about the weather. After seemingly endless weeks of tropical heat, rain was finally forecast. Although our parched gardens certainly needed it, we crossed our fingers that it would hold off for one more day, and our luck held. We had a delightful afternoon with a garden full of both human and (extremely well-behaved!) canine guests.

Sadly, along with the darkening skies, the next day brought us some bad news. One of our life-time members, now living in Wales but never long out of touch, is very ill indeed.  And while we were still absorbing this news, our second garden party had to be cancelled at the last minute due to the sudden illness of Tony B, our host, happily now improving. He, and the hospital, are now cheerfully fending off an avalanche of Shorelink visitors.

So it has been a strange summer for Shorelinkers. Sorrow and celebration, worry and relief. But we are looking forward to our new term starting again in two weeks time, when we shall, as always, kick off with a quiz. And hopefully the start of a productive and creative new year for us all.       Sally