Jenny’s Workshop

Jenny’s workshop was intriguingly entitled What really happened next? and was both challenging and great fun. She gave us some first lines from popular nursery rhymes and then asked us to choose one and rethink its usual story line. The titles ran from Old King Cole to Little Bo Peep, with Georgie Porgie and Pussy cat, Pussy cat and many others  stimulating our creative juices.

We kicked off with gusto as little green men with ray guns landed on planet earth, and imprisoned the population. We left them desperately hoping for the appearance of an empowered resistance. Jack and Jill came next and this was a lighter tale involving boy scouts and toasted marshmallows, really Enid Blyton stuff. Then came a wonderful but heart breaking piece on loss and redemption   However, in true Shorelink fashion, the atmosphere conjured by this was resoundingly cancelled out when followed by a gruesome tale involving an overactive cat and many dead mice.

Moving swiftly on, we had an unlikely romance involving a fly fisherman and an elderly female. I would like to say this was charming but parts of it made my toes curl in a not good way! Then another fly story, which managed to be both more existential and even more revolting simultaneously.

Actually, it was quite an evening for exploring the more repellent side of human nature, though fortunately in an amusing and certainly highly original way. As always, I have skimmed over the evening’s contributions as there were far too many to detail. Armageddon, worms from outer space, a daring car chase, an MI5 agent, all these figured and more. And we finished in spectacular fashion with creepy drama involving the disappearance of Jack and Jill from the top of that hill…

Thank you, Jenny, a great workshop. And thank you everyone for your usual innovative input.

We are at Westfield next week for a reading week, the optional theme In the darkness

Looking forward to some spine chilling stuff, I reckon.


Ro’s Workshop

I think it would be fair to say that everyone looks forward to Ro’s workshops. He regularly manages a combination of quirkiness and simplicity that motivates us to produce good work, and last night was no exception. The premise was one word: Ghosts, ie write a ghost story, true or false, funny or sad, creepy or reassuring. And so, enthusiastically, we did.

We began with a true story. OK, it was mine, and I swear it really was true, of a haunting seen through the eyes of a child as a seemingly normal happening over a period of years. This was followed by a somewhat surreal one full of poetic nods (ghost and roast, for instance!), mysteriously changing shapes under bed clothes, clanging bed springs and failed torch batteries.

Then a more serious attempt. Remember those ceramic poppies round the Tower of London in 2014? And the rumour that they threw up shadows of the fallen soldiers they were representing on the walls of the tower? Well, this tale transferred those mysterious shades on to a family photo of long fallen warriors. It was quite a shock to find out that it hadn’t actually happened!

Then there was clever exploration of the nature of ghostliness and a fascinating  comparison with  ghost prints, this made by an artist, also a tale of ghostly love, lost and found, and another involving a church haunting and exorcism. Inventiveness erupted round the table, poems and prose, fables and fripperies, all vastly entertaining. And I must mention the wonderful duologue between Alf and Doris, life time socialists, horrified to hear news of a friend. What had she done ? ‘ Goes Tory’, exclaims Doris. Don’t get it? Come on, concentrate! I look forward to hearing more from Alf and Doris.

Big thanks to Ro, and to you all, what a fun evening again.

Next Monday Tesco again, a reading week, Optional theme The Bubble(s).

See you there. Sally

John’s Workshop

For the first time ever, due to so much illness in the group, we had to cancel our inaugural meeting this term. Happily, we are almost all restored to health and hopefully it is now back to business as usual. So John’s workshop was our first of 2020, and a thoroughly workmanlike and thoughtful job it was, too.

He had prepared numerous slips of paper, all with four different sentences or ideas on them. These were passed around the table and we picked the one that appealed to us most to write about. The subjects ranged from obdurate photo copiers to marauding vampires so it would be fair to say that there was something for everyone, I reckon. Heads down for twenty minutes while imaginations run riot.

John kicked off the read back with his own take on a miniaturised world, very small people and very large disasters were involved. It was followed by a wedding tale with unexpected guests, and soon after was a delightful pastiche on the world of fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Then came a robust one on the housing situation in Battle and the difficulties suffered as the town is overrun with vampires, to the consternation of the writer. But he was somewhat compensated by being married to Esmeralda, an especially exotic vampire.

Another writer arrived home to find his house in darkness and ransacked by burglars. Except it wasn’t. He had mistakenly entered the house next door. The return of Robert the rat, who has appeared at Shorelink before, saw him still pleading his unlikely innocence from his prison cell, and the story involving a very large lady army driver of a mini caused some definitely politically incorrect giggles.

The narratives came thick and fast – a paean of praise for the The Great British Bake Off, oh, the themes were many and varied as John intended . Dragons, internet click-bait, aliens and yes, at least a couple more vampires.

Thank you to John for all the work you put in and to everyone for making it all so entertaining. It is good to be back. Next week is a reading week and the optional theme is Awestruck.

Should be fun! See you there. Sally.


Our Christmas Party!

Once again, we celebrated Christmas with a splendid meal at the New Inn in Westfield. It is always a rather special Christmas treat, as not only do they decorate the room so beautifully, (crackers and all!) but the whole of Westfield is ablaze with all manner of festive lights, to say nothing of reindeers, snowmen, singing Santa’s and just about everything you can think of appertaining to the festive season. Even Scrooge would be hard put to remain unmoved!

It was a joyful evening, great food, much laughter and chat, and we marked Daniel’s upcoming anniversary with a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday! It was also an evening of surprises as Stephen and Jenny were taken aback to be presented with floral tributes as a token of our thanks for all their work in organising our celebrations, and I was floored but delighted to receive a wonderful bouquet of flowers.

So once more, thank you all for being there, and contributing so much to Shorelink throughout the year. I firmly believe our group is very special, and you all are the people that make it so.

Happy Christmas to you all, and here’s to a creative New Year. As a certain young gentleman once said: God bless us, everyone!

See you all back at Tesco on January 6th, when it will be Ro’s workshop.     Sally

Helen’s Workshop

You definitely need something entertaining as a reward for braving these cold dark evenings, and Helen’s workshop fitted the bill, inspiring some engaging stories. She asked us to imagine ourselves in a café, where someone was sitting alone at a corner table, engrossed in some kind of work or activity. Then you notice they have left, but something of theirs remains behind. It is up to you, the writer, to decide what it is, and also why you pick it up and rush after them – only to find, of course, that they have disappeared.

It was a tantalising scenario and we had fun with it. The first two stories had coincidentally decided that the discarded object was a dog. But the resemblance ended there – one was a cute pup looking for an owner, the other a large and deceased dog in a carrier bag. Moving swiftly on, several stories decided the item was a bomb including one very amusing one where the heroine rushed to drown the explosive item in the sea where it can do no harm, only to discover too late that it was a fake.

There was a memorable tale of a mermaid who was phobic about sea shanties and a delightfully witty piece that managed to pun on several members’ names. The objects found ranged from lottery tickets to a radio transmitter discovered in a loft revealing that long ago tenants had been German spies in WW2.  Then there was the bag full of forged £50 notes, and a, definitely politically incorrect but very funny skit, about the televising of a suicide. There were more. Somehow Bambi starred in one, and a holy man called Obadiah Rasputin in another, and we finished with a quite creepy doppelganger.

That’s a taste of a typically bonkers but creatively satisfying Shorelink evening, I reckon. Thank you, Helen, and well done.

Next week is our last meeting at Tesco until the New Year. A reading week, the optional theme is They lived in an allotment shed. And the week after will be our Christmas party.

See you at them both! Sally

Alvin’s Workshop

Have you ever received an invitation that you absolutely did not want to accept, but weren’t quite sure how to refuse without seeming ungrateful? Well, who hasn’t? (Rhetorical, no answer required!)  That was the basis of Alvin’s workshop. And he wanted our refusal to conjure up all sorts of senses and emotions, especially mentioning smells, whether revolting or pleasantly evocative.  Anyone who reads this blog regularly will guess which of those options most of the group plumped for with their usual relish.

We began with a bevy of gangsters promoting an eternal youth potion permeated with peppermint, and this quickly evolved into a horror story. Needless to say neither the potion nor the antidote worked and before long witches were rampaging through the land. To keep our spirits up (unintentional pun there) that was followed by a ghastly ghost story featuring  buckets of  blood, death and  disaster.

The events to be avoided were uniformly colourful, and many of the excuses involved animals, woolly sheep, magpies, platypus, alligators and aardvarks (of course!).  A majority were located in the countryside though there was a very creepy one set in a tunnel   And the smells described ranged from river mud to Gorgonzola and all stages in between,

A couple of hilarious horror stories were offset by an ode to Glasgow, and a delightful insight into how our creations can become an essential part of ourselves. And perhaps most memorably, a lovely poem on the importance of not undervaluing oneself.

Once again, thank you to everyone, and most especially Alvin for a thoughtful  and productive workshop.  We are at Westfield next week, optional theme He can’t even boil an egg.

See you there. Sally


Stephen’s Workshop

Stephen presented us with a list of over thirty place names, almost all of which were amusingly unbelievable  I mean: Deadman’s Bottom, Dicks Mount, Fanny Barks, and Droop, to name four at random, who knew? Rhetorical question – obviously the people who live there, but not most of us.

So, said our task master, absorb, be stimulated and write. He was obviously taking no prisoners so we obediently picked up our pens. Then, I must admit, most of us spent some moments cogitating, but finally the familiar scratching of ball points and the clicking of keyboards was heard..

We began with a slightly melancholy but lyrical tale of a couple coming to terms with grief for the loss of a baby. Their sojourn in a country hotel, the Rest and be Thankful (yes, a bona fide place!) eventually helping them to bond and begin to recover was a riveting piece.  This was followed by a tragicomic one featuring Donkey Town, and another tracing the reason why a town might have changed its name from Chemical after a gas explosion, to Marsh Gibbon– or was it Crapstone?!

Yes, before you ask, all the italics here are real place names, no kidding!

We had a delightful duologue with a passerby asking for directions while tracking relations, and as another that involved a complicated journey. I lost count of the many places mentioned in these. Another tale was a eerie fantasy involving some very scary animals (16 legs, 10 tails etc!) at Horrid Hill. A black comedy took place at Rotten End where two victims of the local Lothario combined to lure him to a sticky end.  A house move to Nasty, was followed by a hilarious sketch where a gang of criminals planning a heist all bore the names of places such as Catbrain and Fattihead,

There was a thought provoking piece on the plight of Tibet, inspired by Broken Wind, and a couple of wonderfully Gothic tales involving fog and monsters and ghosts and witches and scarecrows, and we finished with Stephen’s own creepy autobiographical account of journeying  through  a dark tunnel aged just 13!

As always, I can never do justice in this brief blog to the inventiveness of the writers, but thanks to you all and especially to Stephen. At Tesco again next week, and the optional theme is When you have a caravan you have a life.

I wait to be convinced– but am sure I’ll be entertained!

See you there. Sally

500 word evening

Another of our rather special 500 word evenings at Westfield. Basically members write something of 500 words or less, then bring it along and share it with the group, while participating in a 2 course supper. Simple, but effective, and an extremely pleasant way of spending an evening.

It is also a bit of a learning curve to write something within those strictures, an object lesson in not using two words where one will do. And the contributions ranged from the humourous to the lyrical, with all stages in between.

Our thanks, as always, to our administrator, who sadly was unable to attend in spite of doing all the donkey work beforehand for us, and to our treasurer. These evenings – and indeed our many celebrations – run smoothly because of their work on our behalf.

Tesco again next week, and Stephen’s workshop. See you there. Sally


Sian’s Workshop

We have all held, or attended, social gatherings at some time in our lives– you know the kind of thing– big public ones (often for a collective protest nowadays) or small intimate family parties. And all stages in between. Sian came up with the idea of asking us to choose one and write about it, while sketching in a picture of the attendees and highlighting one particular emotion among them.

The gatherings described were inevitably varied. We began with a Swamp Park, a dubious animal filled tribute to a greener England, and followed this with a house warming where the neighbours were less than ideal. The overwhelming emotion projected in both of these was anxiety, especially from the organisers. Next we had a poem, and then Sian read her own take on the subject while admitting she had broken workshop rules by doing it in advance. We forgave her as her story of a rapist doing the rounds of Fresher weeks and drugging student’s drinks was so good. And chilling. And we loved the ‘revenge is sweet’ ending.

There was another tale located in a college, before we travelled on with a limousine chauffeur into the world of pop and a largely disorganised star. This was followed by a stag night in a strip club, and a church social that somehow involved two deaths, one of a vicar and one of a bell ringer-–both described with great relish.  (I worry about our group sometimes…)

Our most fervent foodie described a gluttonous feast with assorted animals gorging on their favourite repast until we finally begged him to stop. This was followed by an essay on family one-up-man-ship – a graphic illustration of schadenfreude, as the guests out-boasted each other.  It was a perceptive portrayal of the nastiness of middle class snobbery, inverted and otherwise.

There was a poetic and thoughtful piece on the gatherings of earth, moon and sun, and a wonderfully bonkers one involving Gustav Holst, the West Hill, a trombonist and an aardvark concert. Never let it be said we are boring! This was followed by a party involving almost all the major cartoon characters in 1947, especially Tack, of course. Then we had speed dating, a school reunion, and a wedding that did not go as planned, to the great relief of the bride.

Our workshops are always intended to make us think on our feet and write under pressure, in other words to get the creative juices going. Thank you, Sian, you sure achieved that, and it was, as always, fun.

Next week we are at Westfield for our second 500 word evening of the year, and the optional theme is He called himself a doctor, but

See you there, Sally xx





Jim’s Workshop

We were an unusually small group last night, barely making it into double figures. A combination of illness, holidays, working hours and car troubles decimated our usual numbers with a total of twelve apologies. But that did mean that we had longer than usual to concentrate on Jim’s workshop and we made the most of the extra time.

Jim laid out for our perusal a serendipitous array of articles, ranging from a tiny pack of cards to a Christmas banner, and including such items as a Greek lexicon, a toy elephant, a spectacle case, a kitchen timer, a reel of masking tape and a bible. To name a few. We spent some time  admiring and discussing these before each choosing one and getting our heads down and writing about it.

Come the readback, I think I must begin by trying to do some justice to a story that actually was inspired by the writer’s journey into Hastings that evening as well as the objets d’art on display.  Glimpsed from the train, the writer had spotted three young stags, and on arrival, as she is one hell of an artist, she proceeded to draw them for us, before penning her tale.

One of these stags spotted a dropped watch in a field, and determined to try and find its owner. Hanging it from his antlers he went in search of this unknown person, only to be frightened by a noise into misjudging a fence and finding himself inescapably tangled in barbed wire.. Fortunately, much later, along comes a kind man who manages to untangle him. Freed, he runs back to his mates, dropping the watch as he goes. And yes, you’ve guessed it, the kind man is the watches rightful owner. It was a magical, beautifully illustrated, fairy story.

Another writer had picked the tiny playing cards and described how her grandfather had a similar pack, apparently common amongst soldiers and sailors because of the limits on what can be carried. I had no idea this was the reason for these playing cards being so small, and when she went on to describe visiting Gosport with her grandfather and hearing about his time on a submarine during the first world war, I realised I have a lot to learn about that. This was fascinating stuff and a real learning curve for a history lover like me.

I was very impressed that the masking tape managed to inspire an intriguingly dreamy story, and the spectacle case led to rumination on the loss of family businesses, while the elephant led us all on a jolly romp reminiscent of children’s TV in the 60’s. Another member bravely took the Greek lexicon and launched into a thesis on travel as a cure for insomnia – loved that! And some cocktail umbrellas (remember those?) provoked a delightful description of the writer’s family acquiring an absolutely splendid cocktail cabinet in the 50’s.

There were others, but I hope I have given a flavour of the evening. Jim wrote a poetic essay on the meaning and passing of time so we finished with a flourish, and we gave our thanks to him for a most enjoyable workshop.

And I see, quite coincidentally, that the optional theme for our reading week next Monday at Tesco is Time Flies. As I am quite sure it will. See you there. Sally