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

Jacquie’s Workshop

Jacquie’s expertise and passion in and for the art of animation has certainly led me (and I suspect some others in our group) to explore this field in new way. In particular her fascinating piece on the troubled history of the cinematic masterpiece The Thief and the Cobbler was so interesting I was not surprised when it surfaced as part of her first workshop for us.

Supplying an illustration from that film, she asked us to choose either character and see where it led us. We were given other choices, mysterious happenings in a remote holiday lodge, and a reprisal of the Alice in Wonderland adventure of going through a portal to another world. In fact, the workshop gave many of us a chance to indulge in Magical Realism, which is simply the literary use of magic to underline a truth. Or, a truth as we see it. I’ll stop there –I may be getting in a bit too deep!

Needless to say, Shorelinkers grasped the idea immediately and ran, or wrote , with it. Because of our numbers, there was a mere fifteen minutes to write in, and, once again, I was staggered at the quality of the work produced. I can only pick out a few examples here, but the elegiac essay on the search for the meanings of life and death stand out, as does the child who stepped from the painting to invite another in to play with him. There was the changing room that went through curtain after curtain until– well, who knows?  The woodland clearing with the silver dome rising slowly from the dark pond was a lingering image, indeed woodland and forests figured largely in our ghostly stories. As did talking animals, oh, and dancing ones, including musical cats and a magic hare.

But this is Shorelink, so obviously there were some humorous ones alongside the more sinister tales. I loved the wicked skit on Bexhill and Hastings, the use of hats as personality changers, and the thief who rose through the ranks to become a politician because of his ability to talk old cobblers to everyone. And on another theme,  there was the old air raid shelter, undiscovered for years but full of memories.

I wish I could reproduce some of the pieces here, but once again, the diversity and sheer enthusiasm of the group combined to give us all a delightfully creative evening. Thank you, Jacquie for a brilliant and inspiring workshop.

Next week is a reading week, and we are at Westfield. The optional subject is The Hypnotist.

See you there,  Sally




Alan’s Workshop

Alan suggested we write about our journey through life as coloured and influenced by the places we have lived in and the people we have lived with. It was an inspirational idea. I really loved this workshop  It caught the imagination immediately and  a variety of  fantastic work was created, some fact, some fiction, and in all honesty, a lot of the time I had no idea which was which, but I was riveted by them all.

We began with a snapshot of Alan’s own childhood in a London full of bomb sites and houses destroyed by blast but with furniture still in place although whole walls had disappeared. His young eyes loved this playground and he was initially devastated to be moved with his family to a leafy suburb, but he soon learnt there was adventure to be found there as well. He conjured a vivid picture of those post war years.

The stories that followed took us to many places. Another set in fifties Britain reminded us hilariously of the petrol shortages, while yet another illustrated a boy’s shock that the countryside was not as full of horses as he had imagined before moving there, but instead of tractors – and in particular, the iconic Ferguson. Which he learnt to appreciate, perhaps even more retrospectively..

Then there was a charming piece conjuring up an almost idyllic time in a caravan while Dad built the family house and the thrill of the first visit to the completed homestead. I admit I did decide the piece about the aardvarks living in Bexhill might not be fact – but who knows what goes on in Bexhill?! Which brings me to a poignant piece concerning a daughter clearing her mother’s house which was her own childhood home. Not surprisingly many memories were invoked, both in her and us. I was vividly reminded of my own mother lamenting the disappearance of Izal loo rolls. And if you don’t know why that is funny, trust me, you are lucky!

Another one of us clocked up 29 moves before settling in the period cottage built by smugglers, which she loves, and several more have had nomadic lives taking in continental adventures or even, in one case, a temporary home at the foot of the Himalayas. There were a lot more, of course. Ro narrowly escaped renting the apartment where the La Bianca murders, by the Manson family took place in Los Angeles in 1969, which was somewhat chilling.

Another described with gory details his life as a vagrant. Which he swore was true. Right. Like the one about the Cannabis selling granny, I suppose. As you can tell, this was a typical and totally delightful Shorelink evening. Thank you, Alan, it was a great workshop.

Tesco again next week, a reading week, and the optional theme is: My autobiography and how I’ve suffered.  Good luck with that. See you there. Sally xxxx


Debbie’s Workshop

Debbie gave us a classic workshop, a great example of how simple ideas often inspire the most varied work.  She laid out various illustrations, photographs and pictures, from a selection of magazines, and asked us to choose one and basically see where it took us. As so often, due to our numbers, we had a mere 15 minutes to write as we had to leave time for the read back. I will not be able to do anything like justice here to the excellent stories and poems that were produced, but here’s just a taster

We kicked off with a rather gruesome murder story with a twist in the tale, followed by a creepy story involving a broken down car and solitary night- time walk in the woods. We knew that wasn’t going to end well, and it didn’t. This was followed by an adventure at sea that lead us into ominous waters (see what I did there? Sorry!).

Just as we were beginning to need some light relief, along came a bewitching anecdote featuring a beautiful white barn owl, and then a wonderfully sardonic comment on a certain royal’s driving skills. I loved the idea of HM rushing around in an invalid carriage. A change of mood then, with a reflective poem on the state of humanity and its future. If any.

There was a splendid one about an accidental discovery of cosmetic regeneration, another concerning an aardvark football team, and one about a dicklegerber which I became convinced must be true. That may say more about me than the writer. We had a cat-munching mouse, a Hastings dance group, a philosophical crow, a lovely one about a child’s trip to see dolphins, and a skit on the perils of automation. And more. Lots more. The evening finished with a poem by Debbie herself on the changing seasons.

Thank you, Debbie, for another delightful evening and to everyone else for your versatility and talent.

We are at Westfield next week, a reading week and the optional theme is Guess who’s coming to dinner? See you there. Sally

Stephen’s Workshop

Sadly, our Beloved Blogger is laid low by a coldy coughy affliction, and was unable to attend last nights meeting, so this unworthy stand in must do his best.

Last night, our first time back in the New Year, was Stephen’s workshop. Undaunted by this prospect, nineteen Shorelinkers, (or Shortlinkers as members under six feet are called),  turned up for the occasion. As in all the best workshops, this one was eminently simple. We were just required to write about our New Year’s Resolution – either this year, or in years past.

The diversity of work produced was, as always, astonishing. One of us (no names, no pack drill) was a government adviser, who proposed building a wall across the channel. I was a bit confused as to whether this was to keep foreign nuns out, or keep them in. I have no memory of who this was, but I thought the idea had been borrowed from somewhere.

Then there was a member who had such bad hangovers that they resolved to ban New Year’s Eve. Then someone was thinking of taking up Veganism, but feels sorry for vegetables. Then there was a wild fantasy about a Cary Grant lookalike – a promise to go down to the fish market and feed the mermaids every morning. (We may be back to hangovers here). A sordid story of seduction by Charles Atlas’s double (just the top half you understand). Then there was a vampire paedophile who fell out of a window – a resolution not to murder anyone – grumpy ducks and good deeds – the sex life of a reel of Sellotape (I didn’t understand that, Helen) – a cake flavoured with garlic – a resolution to finish a novel (where have I heard that before?) and something about drones.

If I missed anyone, please forgive me but I have to go and tend the patient now. I can hear a soft moaning and the glug glug of brandy.

A moment of inspiration – what I need is a Chair Doctor.

Thank you and well done Stephen – a splendid idea beautifully presented

PS Thanks, Ro, may even let you do it again!  Reading week next week, at Tesco, optional theme I never expected to find one of these. See you there (hopefully), Sally

The Christmas Party

The Shorelink Christmas Party differed from our usual formal meal this year as we were lucky enough to be entertained by some wonderful singers. We had opted for a buffet supper, which the New Inn produced with their usual versatility and efficiency, catering for all tastes- or as Ro so delightfully put it: carnivores, vegetarians, vegans and Presbyterians!

The evening was inevitably tinged with sadness, as the entertainment by Duncan, Gary and Grace had been Tony’s idea and aspiration, but we knew how happy the fulfilment of his wish would have made him. It was indeed a great evening, full of love, laughter, song and Christmas cheer.

Thank you to all concerned in making it such a success, especially, Shorelinkers – YOURSELVES!

Back at Tesco’s for Stephen’s Workshop on January 7th, 2019 .

Happy New Year! Sally


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.



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.