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


Kate’s Workshop

Kate’s workshop was entitled Quite by Chance, and she asked us to write a piece, fact or fiction, illustrating how a simple unplanned event can change the course of history. That is to say, the history of the world or our own somewhat smaller part in it. As examples she cited the speck in Celia Johnson’s eye in Brief Encounter and Alice falling down the rabbit hole, small things in themselves, huge in their effect on the participants.

The result was a terrific evening full of factual and imagined happenings, though it was sometimes hard to know which was which. We began with a flourish, listening to a story from one of the embroiderers of the Bayeux Tapestry, and passed on to an animal trainer whose expertise was in the field of aardvarks. Those certainly set the bar high for the rest of us. I wish I could repeat all the stories here, the delightful one of the circumstances of landing a first job, the emotional telling of being saved in a car crash by a divine voice calling instructions, and the two soldiers head to head in WW1 who decide to walk away and each let the other live. Heart warming until you learn that one of them was a certain Adolf Hitler.

There was an intriguing, apparently true, tale by a member who has a double living locally which has caused some embarrassment to her. She has been unable to track her doppelganger down but we shall all be on the lookout now. The stories came thick and fast, we really got our creative teeth into this subject. From climbing Ben Nevis to being interviewed by a bishop for a rather unattractive clergy living, to a romantic story centred around a lost organ key, our imaginations and memories were jolted to good effect.

I did love the one about the chap who refused the gift of a drawing from the artist he had just helped with his luggage, only to find out later the chap’s name was a certain P Picasso…  We heard a love story  concerning the meeting of a couple which has led to a long and successful marriage, followed by a charming one illustrating that you don’t have to be in the first flush of youth to fall in love.

There were more, of course, but I shall finish with Kate’s own story of the disastrous Christmas when her kitchen ceiling fell down. I doubt it seemed funny at the time, but the telling of it was pure slapstick.

Thank you all, especially Kate, for another, very convivial, and typically Shorelink evening – inventive, fun and hugely entertaining.

Reading week at Westfield next Monday, the optional theme Making a grand entrance. See you there. Sally.


Another new year – it may be a cliché , but it seems hardly any time since we kicked off the 2018 autumn term with our traditional start of year quiz.  I guess (another cliché here) time flies when you are having fun! And for all the chaos surrounding us, (thank heavens for the ‘no politics’ rule) when we close the doors, shut out the world and begin our sessions, we do have fun.

Yesterday evening we divided into three teams for what was mainly an Art and Literature quiz, with some occasional side-stepping into more general knowledge.  The three teams competed as Vanilla Cheesecake, The A Team, and Enormous Integrity, which will give you some idea of how seriously we take the whole business. As always, we were sometimes slightly sidetracked down other avenues, ie a discussion of the difference between the books Invisible Man and The Invisible Man (look it up!) and a brief wander into Charles Dickens most famous first lines.

But mostly we stayed on the strait and narrow, and although the participants were close, Enormous Integrity were finally declared the winners and therefore privileged to lead the rush to wash up our coffee cups.

A reading week next week, the optional subject Never let the facts get in the way of a good story – as if we would.

See you at Tesco,   Sally.

Our Annual Garden Party

And once again, my faith that the sun would shine on us all afternoon was justified. Around thirty Shorelinkers and guests lounged among the flowers and foliage, with some splendid nosh conjured up by Gill, our friend and neighbour – yes, we are actually lucky enough to have a chef living next door!

Wine and fruit juice flowed freely, as did the conversation.  We were provided with entertainment by some of our more energetic members, and the dogs behaved impeccably, as did the one cat who appeared briefly to investigate proceedings.

It was a lovely afternoon, and I must mention that two of our American friends made the journey from Illinois especially for the occasion, and have already asked if they can come again next year!

So I guess Shorelink just became international!

Back at Tesco on September 9th, when, as always, we will start the year with a quiz.

See you there. Sally

End of Year AGM and Supper.

Last night we celebrated the end of another Shorelink year with a splendid supper at the New Inn. Considerable revelry and laughter, first rate service and excellent food. Our thanks to Patrick and his staff once again for another great evening..

Last week we had our AGM and re-elected our committee en masse, on the ‘if it aint broke, don’t mend it’ principle, and it gave me great pleasure to be able to thank them all for their input, especially our officers, who work hard to ensure the smooth running of our group. There was a special vote of thanks to Stephen, our treasurer, who was unable to be with us, but had passed all the financial information to Ro, our secretary. Ro delivered it with his usual panache and assured us of Shorelink’s financially security.

Sadly, this term we have had to close our doors to new members for a while as we are in danger of becoming too large to function properly.  But we are aware that this is the price of success, and a good problem to have.

When we had concluded the business of the AGM and consumed some classier than usual refreshments, we divided into three teams for a fun quiz. Happily, at the finish there were only a few points between them and a good time was had by all.

Our new term begins on Monday, September 9th, but before then, we do, of course, have our summer garden party on Sunday, August 18th, so here’s hoping for our usual luck with the weather.

And I know that many Shorelinkers will want to support Tony’s sister Michelle, with her fund raising garden party on Saturday August, 24th, which will be at Tony and John’s house.

So a busy summer again. See you all on the 18th.