Chair’s report on the Shorelink AGM  


Our treasurer began the meeting with an excellent report on our reassuringly healthy finances.  We were delighted to know that these are so secure  we are still able to subsidise our outings. The presentation was followed with a formal, and unanimous, vote of thanks to Tony B for all his hard work.

After signing last year’s minutes and giving a couple of apologies, I endeavoured to sum up the Shorelink year, which has happily been very smooth. The only major change we have made in the last twelve months was our decision, at last year’s AGM, to change to this venue, and I think we are all agreed it was a highly satisfactory move.

Shorelink has been busy, as always. 19 workshops, 19 reading weeks, and 2 quiz’s, our usual ‘start of the year’ one, plus Tony M’s Christmas one.  Tony has asked for a well-earned break from doing the Christmas one this year, so Ro and I will try to cook up a festive workshop in its place.

We have also had two celebratory meals at the New Inn, one the week after last year’s AGM and the other at Christmas. Safe to say a good time was had by all, and just to prove it we shall be going back next week for this year’s end-of-term supper. And we had two garden parties in August, one in Ro’s and my garden in Brede, and the other in Tony B’s garden in Hastings Old Town. And, as we are creatures of habit, all these will take place again this year, and we shall cross our fingers once again for splendid weather.

It was a pleasure  to say some huge ‘thank yous’, especially to Tony B, our treasurer, for not only managing our finances so prudently, but for also often going far more than that ‘extra mile’ to offer support  to members of the group. And to Jenny, our administrator, for administrating us so efficiently, most especially for remembering all our birthdays, and for the work she puts in making sure we receive the right menu choices after we have long forgotten our selection.

My thanks, of course, to Ro, our secretary and my right hand. For the many things he does, from keeping the records Tesco ask us for, to proofreading this blog every other Tuesday morning before I post it.  Thanks also to Alvin, our vice chair, and to our committee, who a year ago agreed that unless any of us felt a great need to call a physical meeting, we would be constitutionally within our rights to count group email decisions as meetings and that has made life very much easier. We have had no big decisions to make this year, and the committee’s input has been mainly to agree term dates and our supper venue but, for me, knowing they are all there, and also how great their support has been in the past when I have needed it, has been very important. I expressed the hope that the committee members would all stand again.

During the year, we were pleased to be asked to judge a couple of competitions for Seeing Ear, who had previously been given our permission to put some of Shorelinker’s work into Braille for their library. Most of us had some input into that, and they were delighted with our judgements.

I was pleased to mention some individual achievements; Brian attended the huge annual poetry festival in Austin, Texas, and has been asked to help organise it next year. He also, between shooting off to poetry slams all over the place, published a new book of his work, so has had a busy year. Alvin has also performed successfully at many venues, both as a poet and as a singer, some of these aided and abetted by Tony M, who also writes regularly for Hastings Town Magazine.

Sian is about to publish her fourth novel, Vibes, so congratulations to her, and Kate’s latest exhibition is still running in Bexhill.  We had a message from Linda, now living in Wales and still writing poetry, sending her love to everyone. We have been delighted to welcome some new members who have all added enormously to both the fun, and to the quality of our writing.

I am sure there are things I have forgotten to mention here or do not know about, but I do know that the best and most rewarding thing about Shorelink is watching and listening to the variety of talent around the tables every Monday, into which every single member has huge and equal input. I took the opportunity to thank Shorelinkers, on a very personal level, for the huge support given Ro and me in what has been, to put it mildly, a somewhat trying year for us.

The committee and officers were then elected (actually, all were re-elected) and we celebrated the end of our year with wine and delicious nibbles and then the treasurer took me by surprise by presenting me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers! Thank you all so much.

After the break, we played our own version of Radio 4’s Just a Minute, which I had mistakenly expected everyone to be brilliant at. With one notable exception, (thank heavens for Helen!) they were remarkably dire – but a good time was had by all, and, after all, what more can you ask?

 Next week, Monday, July 245h, is our summer supper at the New Inn.

Sunday, August 13th and Saturday,  August  26th  are the dates for our garden parties,  and term will start again on September 4th, when we will maintain tradition and kick off with a (mainly literary) quiz.




John’s workshop

The Shorelink adage of ‘simple is best’ was again illustrated in John’s excellent workshop last night.  He gave us two very evocative sentences, The day before the big event, and The day after the big event, and suggested we wrote about one or both.

Twenty people scribbled for twenty minutes, and the results were as varied as the writer’s personalities. The first was a wonderfully humorous imagining of the morning after our summer party, with Shorelinkers in various states of inebriation and undress lying around Tony B’s garden. Many of our peccadilloes were highlighted here and there are no prizes for guessing who was found with the ‘scantily clad nun’!

Coincidentally, this was followed by a hilarious ‘hangover’ poem,  and then a piece on Georgie Best, so alcohol was beginning to figure prominently one way and another. But the next piece was a duologue between aliens with a poignant twist in the tail, not a drink of any kind in sight. Then we were off, covering everything from a nuclear holocaust to a church fete that involved the MU mud wrestling, taking in  several Armageddon scenarios along the way.

I can’t really do justice here to the Fijian fire walk, or the Havana honeymoon, or the many typically eccentric but quite thought provoking pieces. One lament to a missed opportunity stays in the mind and I hope writing about it helped allay the sadness.  More typical was piece with a moral – ie DON’T get tattooed when drunk, as the resulting art work might come as something of a shock when you have sobered up.

It was another great evening, actually proving that we don’t need any stimulants to have fun and to write well. Our last workshop this term, thank you, John, we enjoyed it.

Reading week next week, optional theme:  She never really likes shaking hands, however…

See you there, Sally


Debbie’s Workshop

I have been especially looking forward to Debbie’s workshop as it had to be postponed last year. But it was worth the wait. It was something of a double edged pen as Debbie gave us a large (37) selection of phrases from well-known works of literature to use  in any way we fancied, and then we gained  extra accolades for identifying their origins.

The ensuing efforts reflected the diversity of the chosen lines. There were more poems than usual, but as there were quotations from such inspirational poets as Stevie Smith, John Donne and Emily Dickinson, that was hardly surprising. An also-ran named William Shakespeare was in the mix somewhere, as well. One member, with enviable poetic vision, had strung together many of the phrases to make a long and quite extraordinarily beautiful poem. And then there were a couple of delightfully lewd and rude ones to keep the balance!

The stories were many and varied, starring, among others,  a lap dancing Mother Superior (!), a hilariously  inefficient shepherd, (this in spite of his tutelage from the pommy phrase book), and some farting family relatives. We also had a blood stained stately house, and a brilliant political sketch throwing a new light on the Wilson government. Then there was a heartfelt plea for respite care for spaniel owners – oh, I am SO with that one! And many, many more.

I am often asked what is the secret of Shorelink’s creativeness.  I have absolutely no idea, but last night was once more witness to the inventive osmosis that typifies the group. Thank you, Debbie, for stimulating our imaginations so thoroughly and so enjoyably.

Reading week next week, optional theme, Afternoon Delight, (as I wrote that, I suddenly wondered… no, don’t go there.)    And we are at Tesco.      Sally.


Alan C’s workshop

Alan C’s first workshop for us really was ‘something completely different’ – and it was great fun. But it also managed to stretch our minds and imaginations in a very literary and literate way. He presented us with a list of 30 unusual and sometimes archaic words and asked us to devise definitions for them. The more  bizarre, the better. Just up our street, really!

I can only touch briefly on the combined levels of inventiveness as our creative juices ran riot. But I will try to give you a few examples of the nearly 500 which were read back.

Stramazon: A huge online shop

Tentigo: A skin condition that is 10 times worse than any other.

Zarf: A pound of tuppenny rice, and this was followed by Schwa, a pound of treacle

Fulvid: Binging on a box set

Fragus: An American loses his aftershave, ie Los Fregas

Hadal: Another tribute to our friends across the pond, as in the greeting ‘Hi doll!’

Scrobe: A dyslexic copyist

Prunt: A very small pig.

Perigon: Someone who nearly, though not quite, gets everything right.

 Jocalia: A cheerful version of Oedipus’s mum

And to finish this very abbreviated list –

Vum: A few of us are old enough to remember an iconic scouring powder named Vim that  was virtually obligatory in our childhood kitchens, and had some fun with that.

 Stop Press: I have just discovered (isn’t the net wonderful?) that Vim is not only still available, but prospers, so I have to hope the makers won’t sue me for relegating it to the dark ages.

So, once again, an enjoyable and ingenious workshop – thank you, Alan, it was great.

Reading week next week, the optional theme is Times they are a’changin’, and we are at Tesco. See you there.  Sally.

Alan’s Workshop

I occasionally think that our group is mildly eccentric – please note, only mildly – and last night was one of those evenings when that word popped into my head. Not because of the subject, the workshop was brilliant in its simplicity. Alan had chosen a single phrase, ESCAPE FROM, and, after suggesting several situations in which it might be relevant, he  sent us off to write from either one of those or from our own inspiration.  And this is where the eccentric bit rears its head…

The stories and poems which emerged were, I would suggest, almost all at least unconventional, and some downright weird. How about the one that illustrated a poacher escaping from a mantrap by removing his wooden leg (!), or the one about the hotelier who used a large poisonous spider to terrify visitors into paying their bills? Then there was the piece of doggerel concerning an adolescent’s bad case of acne and another involving the somewhat gruesome use of a scimitar.

There were, of course, some less bizarre offerings. Just as well for those of a nervous disposition.  A couple of stories about  schoolboys and their attempts at truancy, one more successful than the other, brought us back into the realms of normality. Then there was a very  poignant one about a huge ‘surprise’ birthday celebration which provoked dread in the heart of the intended (introvert) recipient, and a very surrealistic essay from someone trying to escape from his own ideas. And an absolutely delightful one about a city worker escaping her career to work with orphans in Kathmandu.

I’ve only skimmed the surface here, there were many other tales. Those about an escaping bride, and  a disastrous but hilarious attempt to make a good first impression, to mention just a couple more. In fact, I see now that eccentric, is the wrong word, inventive is the one I should have used. Well done and thank you to Alan, and indeed to everyone for another sparkling evening.

Reading week next week, optional theme: The noise was ear-splitting but… and we are at Tesco. See you there. Sally

Tony M’s workshop

Tony began his workshop by assuring us that his idea was as simple as simple can be. He then proceeded to explain that he wanted us to pick five numbers and write about them. There followed a silence in which confusion hung in the air like a thick fog. Happily, he immediately picked up on our puzzlement and expounded further. He explained that he wanted to learn more about our lives and our characters, and, by picking on numbers that had meaning for us he hoped to achieve this. He gave the example of someone’s childhood house number, and the fog began to clear.

We are not easily daunted, so it was heads down and pens scratching for the next twenty minutes. And then, on the read-back, we began our voyage of discovery.  And Tony was proved right – there were some fascinating insights. Who would have guessed we had in our midst an ex-Scotland Yard officer who had worked directly under Cressida Dick? Or a member who had travelled and worked around most of the world while still in his teens? Or the quiet poet in our midst who had left school at fifteen to work with horses?  Or the ex-Chaplain who had used his influence to work with his MP to promote large social and political changes?

Many of us were more mundane, of course, and picked such unrevealing numbers as their shoe size or the number of the house in which they were born. But, perhaps surprisingly, even those very choices provided some insight into the disposition and personality of the writer.

It was an excellent workshop, Tony, and I would guess largely fulfilled your objectives. Well done and thank you.

No meeting next week as it is another Bank Holiday – they really are coming thick and fast, aren’t they? And the following week, at Tesco on 8th May, is a reading week, the optional theme is Dancing round the Maypole.   Sally

Chris 1 and Chris 2’s Workshop

Now this was a cracker of an evening! Over the years, Chris and Chris (affectionately known as Chris 1 and Chris 2) have combined their talents to give us some notable workshops.  Will we ever forget docilely queuing and donning white gloves to examine an antique book allegedly on loan from the British Museum?  Or the final denouement when it transpired they had found the tome in a charity shop for 20p?!  Sorry – these are rhetorical questions and, as so often, I digress. Back to yesterday’s workshop.

They began by reminding us of those often tiresome speeches made by the recipients of awards. Then they asked us each to draw two folded pieces of paper, one hiding the name of an award, and the other the identity of a famous person, the supposed winner of the award.  We then had twenty minutes to write the celebrities’ acceptance speech, though they were allowed to decline as long as their reasons for doing so were expressed. Laughter rippled through the room as we perused our unwitting choices.

Some were easier than others. Prat of the Year was won by a certain Richard Bransom, Miserable Old Git by Dame Edna Everage and David Attenborough discovering enough speed when pursued by wild animals to win Sports Personality of the Year were among those that teetered on the edge of a strange kind of reality. Actually, Dame Edna reappeared, also winning The Pigasus Award, (look it up!) proving in doing so that at least one of our members has a hilarious aptitude for mimicry. Sadly, the evening also proved that many of us struggle with accents, but those pieces were all the more funny for that!

It is difficult to sufficiently sum up so much inventiveness in a few paragraphs, but bend your imagination to Mohammad Ali accepting the Nobel Physics Prize, Boris Johnson receiving the Bafta, Prince Philip the Oscar or the Queen The Diagram Award – OK, so I didn’t know either, so to clarify, One was accepting the award for writing ‘the book with the strangest title’. We had our more sober moments, Marilyn and the Darwin Award was a touching elegy to a much missed lady.

With a range of celebs from Elvis to Fanny Craddock and a stunning diversity of awards for them to flounder through, it was a vastly entertaining evening. It also brilliantly served the purpose of all our workshops, which is to make us think and write in a context which would often be alien to us. Very well done, Chris x 2, I am already looking forward to your next one!

Next week we are at Tesco again, and the optional theme is a Message from Space.

See you there. Sally

Brian’s workshop

Brian’s first workshop for us was delightfully simple. He brought along a pack of postcards of famous paintings and asked us to choose one and then ‘get inside it’ and write accordingly. He also laid out some optional ‘first lines’ in case anyone was stuck wondering how to begin. Several of us used this device to give us a kick start, though almost all the cards were inspirational enough to speak for themselves.

Now, I afraid with 18 writers (including myself) and a mere 20-odd minutes in which to scribble our efforts, I failed to take a note of which paintings were used, so can mostly only mention the resulting work.

We began with a lovely poem, a kind of ode to silence and stillness, which took the form of a villanelle, ie a poem with two repeating rhymes and refrains. (OK, so I had to look that up to be sure. So…?) Not much of a poet myself, I am always amazed and impressed that anyone can achieve this in a short workshop. Slightly later, we had yet another beautiful poem inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

As always, most of us conjured up our images in prose, and there was a moving anti-war tribute, a delightful  piece with two horses chatting as they ploughed on the south downs, a child musing on the horror of time and the revelation of growing older, a Martian therapist hiding on  earth and a quick march through some re-arranged history with a monk and a Christian-hungry lion!

It is always difficult to give a flavour of the overall inventiveness of the stories from our workshops, but how about the circus ringmaster who reaches this position by graduating from washing bodies for an undertaker to washing elephants at the circus, and that really was just the start of his career? And the couples from the bicycle club whose future was not to be  quite what they had hoped for, and the woman happily dozing in the marijuana haze in an Amsterdam cafe. And many more, every one entertaining..

I can’t resist mentioning the piece that conjured up images from the 1950’s – the Reveille, Charles Atlas having sand thrown in his face and ‘something for the weekend’ in the barber shop. Not quite sure how it related to the Rubens that the writer claimed had inspired it, but what do I know?

Thanks, Brian, that was fun. As it should be.  I am often tempted to think that our refusal to take ourselves seriously lies at the root of our overall high standard. Long may that continue.

Reading week next week at Tesco, optional theme: Exercise is good for you …isn’t it? Looking forward to that. See you there. Sally.





Helen’s Workshop

I was asked recently what the purpose of our workshops is, and the question made me analyse what I think we Shorelinkers probably know instinctively. The workshops not only often challenge us to write out of our comfort zone, but because of the time strictures they teach us to be succinct. If you have to write something coherent and (hopefully!) interesting in 15 or 20 minutes, then there is no room for long rambling sentences or the tempting tautological traps that lie in wait for writers.

Helen’s workshop last night was a prime example of this. Headed Unexpected items in the bagging area, she gave us four wide ranging scenarios to choose from apart from the obvious one. These included a recued cat harbouring what? in the back of its basket, a refugee child opening a Christmas shoebox, and an unexpected knock at the door. We read the choices and then it was quickly heads down followed by silence except for rustling paper and the occasional sigh.

Then, as always, we read our efforts back. The variety was fascinating. We kicked off with a poem about a cat whose basket hid six newborn kittens. The next one was a moving account of a child in Alleppo, followed bizarrely by the accidental purchase of a sonic screwdriver in Lidls. One of our number had forgotten his glasses but treated us to an off-the- cuff oral story about his childhood, leaving us wondering if there might be inspiration for another kind of workshop in the future.

The stories came thick and fast, carousels and lost luggage, one featuring a scorpion, another a platypus (don’t ask!), a vegetarian discovered with carnivore habits, a murder in a supermarket, and a delightful fairy story concerning golden hay bales. Too many to list, of course. Moving ones such the child escaping poverty by learning to read, and inevitably at the moment, some that mentioned certain thinly disguised political figures.

Thank you Helen, it was fun as well as stretching us. Mission achieved, in fact. Next week, back at Tesco, the optional theme I had no idea who he/she was but…

See you there.  Sally.

Kate’s Workshop

It is something of a mantra with our group that as far as workshops are concerned, ‘simple is best’. A brief and clear instruction gives us a longer time to write as well as testing our imaginations. So it was with Kate’s workshop, the task could hardly have been more concise – write a piece that begins Once upon a time there were three…

It was heads down and we were off, scribbling frantically. It was, of course, our choice of three ‘whatevers’ that set the shape of our individual efforts. And they were undeniably varied. We began with a very touching piece concerning three autograph books. Then carried on more mundanely with mountains and forests, both of which invented a threatened tribal world, though in very different ways. Then we listened to a beautiful piece involving the three wise men.

The following stories involved wizards, writers, cats, space stations, fairies, Samurai, Walt and two of his Disney character. And bearded trolls and active sphinxes. To name a few.  I must not forget, ( how could I?) the three transgender platypi – I am told that is the plural of platypus.

And then there were the three shopping trolleys, glued together in the car park, remarking acidly on the shopping habits of their users. I should mention that one of the trolleys suffered from agoraphobia.  Only at Shorelink, I reckon…

It was a splendid evening, stretching our imaginations considerably. Which is, after all, the point. Thanks, Kate, we loved it.