Sally & Ro’s Workshop

Our last workshop of the term – time sure does fly! Ro and I wanted to come up with something that was fun as well as, hopefully, inspiring. We found a set of 50 postcards displaying illustrations of the many Enid Blyton adventure stories. You almost certainly know the ones, as merely mentioning  The Famous Five, and The Secret Seven is enough to spark most people’s memories of these frightfully middle class kids having ripping adventures! And the books are still in print and selling today, so it is not only generational. Which was fortunate for our workshop.

We began by passing the cards around the table, and followed this with a list of popular phrases of the time. Oh, golly gosh, I had a absolutely spiffing time researching those. Cries of jolly good show reverberated round and then it was heads down and write. And, yes, the assorted results were quite definitely fun.

We began with a hunt for a group of suspected smugglers that turned out to be party goers celebrating in a flashing lighthouse. Then we moved on to a charming tale featuring Bunblekins who thought he had died and gone to heaven when his boat hit the rocks. (Apologies to him if his name is misspelt!)  We moved swiftly on to a childhood reminisce of a holiday in the New Forest, especially a quite painful one involving a bicycle and a broken elbow. Ouch!

Next was a delightful pastiche of that long ago world of boys in short trousers and gum boots, and lashings of pop – all absolutely super duper. The stories came thick and fast, many of them involving the dare devil cliff edge rescues of a variety of stranded people or animals, our heroes always being fearless and inventive, of course. Though occasionally they ended up on the wrong side of the law and in the magistrate’s court, perhaps holding up the post office was taking a game a bit far, but it was a fair cop. Or a rum do, perhaps!

We had spiffing hols with scrummy picnics, inadvertent but exciting trespassing, gypsy caravans and English villages with wonderful names. We briefly went back to the enchanted adventures we would all have loved to have had, in an enchanted England that never actually existed outside the covers of those books, and it was a delight.

So thank you all for joining in with such gusto,, and a huge thank you to Enid Blyton, who illuminated so many childhoods and still does.  We finished the evening by having to bid farewell to a Shorelinker who is off to the other side of the world. We presented her with a’friendship’ book. in which we have all been writing messages covertly for some weeks. So Nancy will have something of Shorelink in her rucksack on her next journey. God speed and au revoir!

Our last meeting of term next week at Tesco will be our AGM. I shall try and get through the business speedily and then we shall have a fun quiz. More fun? Of course. As we Shorelinkers say Laughter is an essential part of the creative process!

Hope to see you all next week.  Sally


John’s Workshop

John’s workshop was a classic ‘get your heads down and write’ example and none the worse for that. He dealt out sixteen phrases and unfinished sentences for us to use and let us get on with it. Which, of course, we did. Most of us just used one or two of them to kick off our pieces, but there are always a few clever clogs who show off by using them all, of course!!

We began with a tale of a man erroneously called Bones and an exploration of why and how that had come about. That was followed by a parable on the difficulty of changing a habit of self indulgence even when the mind was insisting it would be beneficial. We all sympathised with that.

Then we moved onto a searing story of a woman trying to leave her abusive, alcoholic husband. That was the kind of mini masterpiece which takes your breath away, as well as perfectly illustrating why we Shorelinkers believe our programme of workshops is so constructive. Almost before we had recovered our collective equilibrium, the next tale used every phrase to embark on a threnody of regret that the writer had not opted to spend the evening on the beach. By the time he had finished we nearly sent him there, anyway!

We travelled on to a delightful fantasy where Johnny Depp was begging for a Shorelinker’s autograph (!), and then found ourselves in the middle of a tale about a search for a missing cat, which involved rescuing a stranded bat. The writer of this assured us that the bat bit was true, and, as I am deeply phobic about bats I moved her on swiftly, unable to even imagine such bravery. The stories came thick and fast, there was the prehistoric beast sighted in the jungle, an essay on procrastination, and another true story about a National Serviceman desperately trying to get back to base using a railway service that was useless. That sounds amazingly familiar, doesn’t it?

There was a rather sad one which we all hoped wasn’t true concerning a school girl, dying to be popular, who turns up at the fancy dress party to discover she is the butt of a cruel  joke as no-one else is in fancy dress. And another sad one about how hard it is to get talent really recognised, followed by another from one of our older members about using DNA to go back to being forty and starting again.

Such diversity in such a relatively short space of time. Thank you, John, like all good workshops you inspired some great stuff.

Next week is our last reading week of term, optional theme, So you call that an incentive?

See you there.   Sally

Chris and Chris’s Workshop

Our duo of Chris’s, famous for their workshops,   came up with a neat idea for this one. They laid out 10 quotations from various notables, reaching from LP Hartley to Goering and taking in Mrs Patrick Campbell on the way. So, a fair old range to send us on our writing way. A few of the group decided to use more than one quote, and a couple went for broke and used them all. Just have to have the occasional clever clogs, don’t you?!

I’ve copied them below so you’ll be able to join in the fun. And, of course, fun there was, a’plenty.

  1. A highbrow is the kind of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso.
  2. Let’s find out what everyone is doing and then stop everyone from doing it.
  3. People must not do things for fun. We are not here to have fun. There is no reference to fun in any Act of Parliament.
  4. The trouble with nude dancing is that not everything stops when the music stops.
  5. The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.
  6. As there is use in medicine for poison, so the world cannot move without rogues.
  7. I’m out of a job. London wants flappers, and I can’t flap.
  8. Guns will make us powerful, butter will only make us fat.
  9. Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing, – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.
  10. I don’t enjoy my public obligations. I was not made to cut ribbons and kiss babies.

The second quote inspired everything from cocaine snorting (topical at the moment!) to a suggestion that we don’t need governments (also rather topical), another that McDonalds and KFC would benefit from using silver cutlery and a rousing description of a family with 13 children. The third quote brought about a delightfully salacious one involving a very dubious member of the moral police.

Number seven was very popular, involving, as you might expect, quite a few birds. Everything from pigeons to penguins flapped across our imaginations, mostly, as one writer put it, not dancing but gliding! Number one stimulated a soliloquy which turned out to be a wonderful send up of surrealism.   Number eight sketched a picture of the Gothic quarter of Bexhill, labouring under a police state with tanks in Tesco’s car park. And number nine inspired several more relaxing pieces, including one starring the owl and pussy cat, and another punting on a gondola under the moon.

And you will probably have guessed that there was considerable hilarity with number four and a certain amount of lese majestie involved with number 10. Every quote was used at least once, and although we had a mere 20 minutes to scrawl our masterpieces, prose or poetry, there wasn’t a dull one there. Well done everyone, especially Chris and Chris – you did good.

Back at Tesco next week for the penultimate reading week of term, the optional theme: That isn’t a dog, it’s a …

See you there.  Sally




Nancy’s Workshop

This was Nancy’s first workshop for us and sadly, probably her last, as she is having to move away in the near future. And it was truly memorable in that it inspired some absolutely splendid work. Her premise was simple, as are all the best workshops.  She offered three scenarios, write about romance in all its many guises,  a life swap with someone you like or admire, or tell us about a piece of advice you received and whether you followed it.

We absorbed our instructions, then it was heads down and silence except for the squeaking of pens and pencils and the tapping of keys into phones and laptops. Thirty minutes later we were off, reading back our work. And how entertaining it proved to be. We began with the love story of Basil and Rosie, rapidly revealed in their feline personas. Then we heard a hilarious piece of doggerel, appropriately about a dog. Well, yes, there are a lot of animal lovers at Shorelink – and I am not apologising for that! We were entertained by more animal stories as the evening progressed, the cat whose disappearance caused an unlikely romance, the red setter who unintentionally scared a dog phobic walker, a stalwart bull dog, and several others, not forgetting Polly and Horace, and their tortoise romance. And an enchanting take on The owl and the pussycat, possibly one of history’s most famous mixed marriages.

We had a charming story of a family feud, healed by the intervention of a mysterious stranger who quite literally built a bridge between their properties. The pieces came thick and fast, romance probably the favourite theme. Some funny, some poignant, some fantasy but many based on members true experiences. We are, without doubt, a romantic lot. As always far too many to describe here, but I can pick out a couple of the more picturesque phrases and words. A fable about the power of listening was introduced with the word poppycock (now there’s a word to cherish), the stirrings of love were described as a hammer to my heart .

It was once again, a quite delightful, and inspiring, evening. I am constantly amazed at your collective creativity. Thank you everyone, and especially thank you to Nancy. Don’t forget us! And who knows, perhaps some time in the future you’ll be back to do another workshop for us. Meanwhile, bon voyage from all your Shorelink friends.

Reading week at Tesco on 10th, optional theme, So what did you have in mind? I am looking forward to finding out! Sally

Jenny’s Workshop

Jenny’s workshop was an exploration of the many uses of one word in our complex language. To illustrate her hypothesis the word she chose was ‘dig’ and we had a brief conversation about its multiple meanings before beginning to write.  I have been asked recently by people who read this blog (reassuring to know that someone does!) why we operate on this dual level system of workshop/ reading week so I thought I would endeavour to explain.

The workshops, always run by members, are designed to provoke our creative juices, get us thinking on our feet (no, not literally!) and produce a piece of prose or poetry in an allotted time, usually between 15- 20 minutes. The work, which always covers everything from the sublime to the ridiculous, is then read back to the group. And the ‘reading weeks’ are just that. We read our pieces, written in our own time, out loud. Sometimes these are on the optional theme which members like to have, or part of a longer work such as a novel, or just about anything the writer fancies. The only criteria are an absolute maximum of ten minutes read-back time and no politics or religion. It sounds straightforward because it is, and the standard of the work is often breathtaking.

So, back to Jenny’s gloriously simple workshop. There was, obviously, quite a lot of conventional digging going on,  I loved Digger Jenkins, the crooked Australian opal-digger, who dug up the last ticket on the Titanic, and Molly, frantically digging for buried treasure under the burning sun, finally revealed as little girl on the beach. We made a trip to New Orleans and really dug some Cajun music and poetry. We also met a Koala bear, dug for Victory, and some of us were inspired by  a poem to recall how, in the 1970’s, it was mandatory to dig just about everything.

We were hilariously regaled with the antics of the ghost of Lady Cynthia Strumpet as she haunted a 16th century cottage, and reminded of an apparently true story of a lost ring turning up years later embedded in a freshly dug carrot and another vegetable one about Irish potato diggers. An especially gruesome one about burying deer to mature the venison should encourage the present move toward vegetarianism.  And by contrast, a magical, beautiful, very visual one about dragon puppies.

As you can tell, by these sketchy examples, we dug deep –OK, sorry. But well done, and thanks, Jenny. There were many more stories, of course, all imaginative and all entertaining. A really enjoyable exercise.

At Tesco next week for a reading week, and the optional theme is: It was raining that day.  See you there. Sally

Alan C’s Workshop

Alan’s workshop was a more ‘nuts and bolts’ job than is usual. He spoke about the importance of description and used the phrase show, don’t tell as his title. In other words, make sure your reader is absorbed into the scene rather than an outsider looking in. He read two pieces from the wonderful Raymond Chandler (sadly without the accent!) to illustrate his thesis. He also offered various scenarios for us to work with and stressed that we were to write a scene, not a story.

One of his suggestions featured a cat, so needless to say, felines dominated the various offerings. I especially liked the one of the bad-tempered Siamese forced to visit the vet and rather wished I could have heard more of it. There were several scenes in cafes and also in gardens, both of these places causing the writers to conjure up both sounds and smells in a way that perhaps they would not have done without the workshop.

The character from the painting who looked into the pond and saw the reflection of a wise old woman had great resonance, as, in a very different genre, did the poem about Tarquin and his thong – unforgettable, that one!

It made for a thoughtful evening, and hopefully will influence some future writing. It was a more subdued meeting than usual, as just before embarking on the workshop we heard news of the tragedy unfolding in Paris, and saw the images of Notre Dame burning. Such an iconic building has a place in all our hearts, and we can only hope that, like our own St Pauls all those years ago, it will eventually rise again from the ashes.

Thank you, Alan, not only for the work you had obviously put into the evening, but for stepping into the breach at quite short notice. No meeting next week, as it is a Bank Holiday, and the week after that (29th) we are at Westfield for a reading week, optional theme: I swear I was just looking for my cat…

Have a happy Easter,  Sally





Ana’s Workshop

Sometimes someone comes up with a workshop that is such fun and so obviously inspiring that you can’t think why no-one has done it before. Ana’s workshop last night was definitely in that category. She began by giving us several options but the main strand of her thinking was around train journeys. Past, contemporary, even future. Imaginary or factual. The places and the people observed on the way. We could, she told us, ignore the trains and alternatively write about the possibilities of an eight day week, but most of us chose to go on a railway trip. Though even the only eight day choice involved a journey, albeit to the moon. Ana then played an original piece of music by a composer friend which was designed to soothe us into letting our creative juices flow.

We began with a colourful and perilous ride on the roof of a train to Delhi, where it began to feel as if only the story teller would survive. Not sure this storyteller felt very soothed, and he certainly left us with nerve ends jangling. But we continued with a delightful family journey, where the noise of the train eventually lulled both parents and baby to sleep. Then we passed to charming reminiscence of a crossing from Calais to Paris in 1955. You have to be a certain age to understand what a big deal that would have been in those days..

There was poignant piece about the closing of a railway line in Wales in 1984, which affected an entire village as it went from being a thriving and close knit community to having to find new motivation and ways of surviving. And, happily, it eventually did. And another piece sent a chill down the spine as it recalled the packed trains departing for the gas chambers.

But the overwhelmingly upbeat stories came think and fast. We were amused by the reluctant daughter boarding the wrong train when forced to attend the family cat’s birthday party, and the splendid poem which managed to reproduce the rhythms of the train whilst making us laugh.

Memories, real or otherwise came pouring out, inspired by the age of the train. Without doubt, the romanticism of those dirty smelly, steam trains persists, immortalised, I suspect, by film of The Railway Children. (In reality, I have always suspected Jenny Argutter would have fallen down choking asthmatically on the platform long before she reached her daddy. Ok, I’m a cynic.)

We had an enchanting diversion into fantasy that had the main participants, Olga and Otto, gorgeously illustrated for us, another that had John Wayne dancing to jazz music in a cowboy movie, and another about a childhood dominated by laundry day and a vicious mangle. We heard a description of the claustrophobia of tunnels, and the danger to your fellow passengers of drinking from those squishy coffee cups. And two 1970’s diversions, one around Europe and the other from LA to San Francisco.

Almost no railway line unremarked on, in fact! Well done and thank you, Ana. Next week, a reading week at Tesco, the optional subject Sunk without trace. See you there.   Sally



This was our third 500 word evening and it was quite as delightful as the others. Everyone rose to the challenge of producing a piece of work using not more than 500 words, and there was the usual mix of humour, mysticism, thrills and just about whatever genre it is possible to write in! The readings are timed to take place around a two course meal, which, as always was delicious.

Our thanks to everyone at the New Inn in Westfield, especially to the hard working waiters who once again rose seamlessly and unobtrusively to the challenges of the occasion, and to Patrick, our host and chef, who also ensured that the dining room looked especially lovely, our long table decorated with vases of spring flowers.

Thanks also, of course, to Stephen our treasurer, and Jenny, our hard working administrator, without whom the evening might well descend into chaos. And thank you to you all for making it such a splendid and memorable evening again.

Back at Tesco next week for Ana’s workshop – see you there. Sally

Brian’s Workshop

Brian began his workshop by telling us that it was one he had done before, not only for us, but all over this country and as far afield as Austin, Texas. We were suitably impressed, and when given the details understood how flexible and many faceted the challenges incorporated in the workshop were.

He presented us with a large pile of postcards, bearing diverse images, as far apart as Victorian ladies on bicycles to paintings of Japanese Geishas or various landscapes. We were also given a variety of first lines, one of which had to be used to start the piece. So plenty of material there.

Brian began the read back with his own poem, followed soon after by a piece involving a farting dog – Shorelinkers do like to lower the tone quite quickly! Then there was delightful one involving a boat race, and a nine year old spectator struggling with a recalcitrant orange, and a hilarious story about a murderous attack on – wait for it – a yucca plant. Great stuff.

The variety as always was breathtaking. The twenty-three people present had about fifteen minutes to think and then write. This timing is crucial as given much longer to write, many in the group can knock off a three volume novel and then reading back would take all night. As regular readers of this blog will know, the amount of creativity engendered is often extraordinary. We were treated to aliens, medieval flowers, dreams in Chinese (happily interpreted for us) the reluctant extraction of a baby tooth, and carp living in a kitchen sink. As they do. Or might, anyway!

Poems and prose, funny and sad, skylarks and piranhas, this is a mere taster for another great evening. And we finished with a side-splitting take on a folk tale about an old lady who had her wicked way with an innocent (?) farmer. You had to be there. And I am so glad that I was. Thank you, Brian, for another splendid evening

Next week is our third 500 word evening at the New Inn. I think it might be safe to say these suppers have become a Shorelink tradition. The optional theme is It was all going well until the battery died, and the only rule is that it must absolutely NOT BE MORE than 500 words long – or my timings for the evening go up the creek and I shall have a tantrum!

Looking forward to it.    Sally

Helen’s Workshop

Anosmia. Good word, isn’t it? I bet you don’t know what it means. At Helen’s workshop last night nearly all of us admitted we didn’t either. To save the trouble of looking it up, below is Wikipedia’s answer:

 Anosmia is the inability to perceive odour or a lack of functioning olfaction—the loss of the sense of smell. … A related term, hyposmia, refers to a decreased ability to smell, while hyperosmia refers to an increased ability to smell. Some people may be anosmic for one particular odour.

Interesting, isn’t it? But actually the workshop was about the very opposite of loss of smell. Helen gave out a sheet suggesting thirty different scents, some shuddery and some immediately invoking pleasant nostalgia. From skunks and sweat at one end of the spectrum to perfume and freshly mown grass at the other. With a mere fifteen minutes to write in, we were tasked with writing around a ‘smell’ experience. I hardly need to tell regular readers of this blog that the group rose to the challenge immediately.

We began with a delightful country walk, etched firmly our minds by the writers description of returning home with two wet dogs. In fact, doggy smells figured quite largely, another referring to many dogs fascination with rolling in certain excretions that I won’t go into here – all dog owners will know exactly what I mean. Wild animals also appeared, a fascinating one tracking a fox who was himself tracking a rabbit. And how could I not mention those kangaroos?! Or the story of the washed up, half drowned man found and woken on the beach by the smell of seaweed and, yes, the wet dog? Oh, and the perfumed assassin, as well as the true story of Pickles the dog who retrieved the stolen world cup in 1966.

There was an interesting foray into polluting smells, such as chlorine, and the memories woken by cooking smells. It was a trip down memory lane for quite a few Shorelinkers, illustrating just how evocative smells are. There were several splendid poems from the nostalgic to the delightful ‘cheesy feet’ one. Hospitals, cars, swimming pools, woodland – it was interesting how as each piece was read, the smell immediately became almost tangible in the listeners mind.

But, more sadly, several of our group had little or no sense of smell. Whilst this can obviously have advantages, they are heavily outweighed by the negatives, such as badly affecting how one tastes food. And obviously it can also be quite dangerous not to be aware of such potentially dangerous smells as burning food. But most of all, my heart goes out to those who can’t smell the wonderful smells of spring.

Thank you to everyone, for once more producing some fantastic and thought provoking work in a minimal amount of time, and huge thanks to Helen for coming up with such an enjoyable and inspiring workshop.

Tesco again next week, the optional theme I can’t remember where I left it. See you there,     Sally