Tony B’s Workshop

Murder, he cried! And so he did – Tony B laid out before us an elaborate scenario, casting himself in the role of Chief Inspector Maurice Joseph of the Serious Crimes Directorate from Scotland Yard. He then proceeded to use his deductive powers to try to solve the very bloody murder of Sir Basil Windermere, who had been discovered two hours earlier in the library with his head bashed in..

We were all given a short biography to work with, each of us with both motive and opportunity to commit the ghastly deed. Then we had just fifteen minutes to write, no, not an alibi, but a confession, and to state any possible mitigating circumstances. Sadly, I didn’t make a note of some of the more outlandish names of the characters we were given, but Dolores and Ptolemy were among the aristocrats and the lower ranks were given names that suited their rank, such as Mildred and Emily, this presumably to ensure that we all knew our places.

I had no suspicion we were such a ghoulish lot, but as confession after confession poured forth, our murderous ingenuity was alarming. Sir Basil was exposed as a serial sex offender (porn, rape – regrettably, nothing new under the sun), a cheat, an adulterer, a gambler, a horrific and bullying employer and a braggart. To say nothing of being a murderer himself, having killed off one brother while imprisoning another in an asylum. In fact, he appeared to have no virtues whatsoever.

So no-one much needed extenuating circumstances; the good old American ‘justifiable homicide’ seemed to fit most cases. But this is not to highlight the most entertaining facet of the evening – many of our villainous characters were required to be portrayed with an accent! It is always noticeable how many regional accents unintentionally tend towards the Welsh, but praise must go to the brave souls who tackled the American rise and fall, especially when we discovered the victim’s name was pronounced Bay-zil in some parts of the USA.  And then there was a wonderful Bulgarian assassin in our midst!

But I can’t leave you without mentioning the weapons used, the inventiveness was breathtaking, if a bit scary. There was some preference for bronze or stone busts, being a familiar object in a library, so Churchill, Victoria and a couple of other heavyweights (excuse the pun) came in handy. But I must mention the table lamp, an ink well, a poker, a rolling pin, a horse shoe, a stuffed, wall hanging, bears’ head, guns various, and, the very best of all, a dumbbell!

Tony B, ex Scotland Yard in a previous life, aka Chief Inspector Joseph, declared us all guilty and arrested us all on the spot, a fitting end to another great evening. Thanks, Tony, we loved it!

Reading week next week, optional theme The Python’s Escaped!  And the following week will be Kate’s workshop . And yes, both are at Tesco.

See you there. Sally




Hazel’s workshop

Hazel’s first workshop for us was a delight and conjured up a huge variety of work. She gave us five minutes to choose ‘six tracks of our lives’, ie six connected things which illustrated our personal journey, and she asked for them to be positive.  As you can imagine, many of the group chose music.

The eclectic range  chosen across the half a dozen Shorelinkers who plumped for this subject provided a superb example of the multiple personalities and backgrounds that somehow meld together so inspirationally in our group.  Ranging from rappers to grand opera and taking in just about every genre along the way, it was a heady mix.  The only really consistent reference I noticed was to the great Elvis– and why not, indeed?!

These musical memories highlighted many highs and lows, but with particular accent on the highs. For instance, there was a passing reference to a fairy tale cathedral wedding being made even more special because both bride and groom were previously widowed. Another very moving piece talked about the slow and continuing journey back to life after loss.

Many of the pieces cited childhood toys as a major part of their reminiscences, and one tale reduced us all to helpless giggles. Will we ever forget the story of the putty ball given to a child by home decorators Mr Coccket and Mr Spray (she swears that was their real names!) which she rolled into a million or so different shapes and became her favourite toy. OK – so perhaps you had to be there!

And that might sum up the entire evening – you had to be there. We walked into each other’s lives, following, among others, the lifetime book worm who became a mature student and achieved her degree, the feisty traveller who has visited almost every country in the world, the film buffs, the theatre goers, the animals lovers and much more.

It was a truly enchanting evening, and left us all with a warm glow. Thank you, Hazel, I an already looking forward to the next one!

Reading week at Tesco next Monday, optional theme Underneath the floorboards  – could be quite a scary evening!         See you there.     Sally

Sian’s Workshop

We say it over and over again – the more simple the approach, the more successful the workshop. And Sian demonstrated that perfectly. OK, I confess that is a bit of a pun. Because she began by telling us that her aim was indeed to think of the perfect formula, and that led her to ponder the word perfect – and bingo, there was her answer. Write a piece in which the first sentence includes the word perfect and which must be central to the rest of the work.

As usual, there were too many of us to allow more than twenty minutes writing time, but we do like to rise to a challenge. The first read back was about the power of laughter, not any old laughter but that overwhelming, convulsing, uncontrollable and infectious heaving that leaves you with tears on your cheeks. A perfect storm of laughter, in fact. The piece was illustrated with a reference to this year’s  Strictly Come Dancing and the delightful reimagining of Morecombe and Wise’s Bring me Sunshine as performed by Susan and Kevin. It then went on to guide us through a gallery of famously hilarious sitcoms , evoking considerable nostalgia and mirth.

We moved on to some more dancing, featuring Elvis, but also mourning the loss of the perfect partner. Then there was an essay about resisting the marketing push for us all to be perfect men and women, and what a fallacious and sterile pursuit that is. The stories came thick and fast, to mention only a few, the lady who found some perfect boots on top of a litter bin, the acquisition of the perfect (nearly) rodent-catching cat, a fantasy of perfect weightlessness, and  a longed for short break that turned out to be considerably less than perfect.

It is always difficult to believe the level of creativeness that is delivered in twenty minutes and, sometimes, even more,  the writers ability to decipher their rapid scribbles! There were loads more tales, a slightly salacious one concerning a robotic Claudia Winkleman (Strictly is obviously a Shorelink favourite), another starring a Rolls Royce with built in AI, yet another featuring an imperfect Porsche . I loved the head girl burning down her school by smoking in a burka, and the accidental paradox which hilariously illustrated how occasionally something wrong can turn out to be extraordinarily right.

It was, as always, an excellent evening. Thank you, Sian, that was great. Perfect, in fact.

Next week is a reading week, of course, and we shall be at Westfield. The optional theme is The Leopard who wanted to change his spots. See you there.                  Sally

Jim’s workshop

JIm’s first workshop for the group and he set us an intriguing task of reflecting on a favourite colour or certain scenes from nature such as a sunset, a newly ploughed field, a field of flax or oil seed rape in flower or a colourful sky and let it evoke emotions or memories.  As usual, Shorelinkers came up with a variety of amazing poems and tales.
Among others, there was a friendly alien with a blue theme, a memory of accompanying a father to ploughing matches, a thoughtful piece on the significance of white and a mysterious one of children – or were they? – in a black room.  A sad memory was of a much loved luminous green shirt that met its demise due to the use of a hot iron. Then we heard about an ominous pink sky, fields raped by rape seed oil, memories of an evacuee – I could go on.
JIm had also researched some useful material to aid our writing, including books and computer programs and an article on how to write a best seller – move over, J.K. Rowling!’

My grateful thanks to Jenny for stepping into the breach and writing this blog for me. Reading week next week with the optional theme You know what they say about vicar’s daughters  – now that might turn out to be more typical than anticipated…    Sally


Ro’s workshop

Ro’s workshops are always fun and this one was no exception, simple and effective. It suffered from one major flaw – and that was his memory, not his imagination. He recently discovered a rather beautiful and unusual old bottle, and thought how fascinating it would have been when it was cleaned up, to have discovered a message in it. This thought led to his workshop, which was to describe what kind of a message you would either put, or hope to find, in the bottle. As inspiration he was going to present the bottle, with a flourish, of course. Only – he forgot to bring it!

Unphased by this lapse, the group grabbed pens and papers and set to with a will. We kicked off the read-back some thirty minutes later with a true story about a lady who posted a Happy New Century message off the Isle of Sheppey at midnight on the millennium, and amazingly received a response a few days later. This was followed by a very creepy story of  drowning a witch  in the 17th century – that dreadful catch  22 situation where you were innocent if you drowned when thrown in and guilty and hanged if you didn’t. The good old days?

We travelled forward in time to encompass a dream concerning the current president of America, followed by one about an alien ambassador come to warn us of an approaching Armageddon – both stories underlining how thin  the line between humour and pathos, and fact and fiction, really are. As usual, the narratives that followed were diverse and entertaining, involving a hurricane, a prayer for forgiveness, apolitical skit set on the Thames just outside the Palace of Westminster (loved Michael Gove with a bomb!) and a biblical conundrum.

Other contributions included references to Captain Pugwash, an abortive effort to retrieve the message, and a terrific one about astronauts discovering a message on the moon by the person who really got their first. Another contributor fell over and broke the bottle, sustaining some hilarious and bloody injuries, whilst yet another discarded as junk a hugely valuable artefact from the Titanic. As you can tell, a torrent of imagings, capped by a cheeky poem and a tale which ended on a suspenseful question mark. And I must not forget the host of this feast, and whose own contribution was a description of his latest oeuvre, an Aramaic  paperback entitled Miracles for Dummies. I can’t remember what it had to do with bottles, but who cares?

So there it is – a brief romp through a typical Shorelink evening.  Thank you, Ro, we had fun and we wrote some inventive stuff. And that is what we are all about, isn’t it?

Next week we are at Westfield and the optional theme is Lost.

See you there. Sally.


The autumn term – already?!

Well – and here we are again. A new term, a new Shorelink year. It hardly seems possible that our last meeting was seven whole weeks ago. But we have been quite busy. On the Bank Holiday weekend we gathered in Tony B’s beautiful garden, hidden away in the heart of Hastings Old Town, where the more musical of our writers serenaded us with song, and two of our members did their own hilarious take on Stanley Holloway’s monologue The Lion and Albert, complete with props ranging from a cuddly lion to a bath mat (don’t ask) and a huge variety of hats.  Well done , girls, we loved it.

And the food! My goodness, Tony, you must have spent hours on it, it was amazing. Next year I intend to starve the week before in readiness. I am saying a big thank you here, on behalf of everyone, for all your hard work. The weather, once again, was perfect, the inevitable dog guests behaved beautifully, and it was a delightful afternoon.

And yesterday evening we were back at Tesco for our traditional start-of-the-year fun quiz. At least, as question master, I hope it was fun. Everyone seemed to be having a good time and we discovered a quiz genius in our midst. I shall make it more difficult next year, especially for you, Brian!

I always like to mention Bill here, who began this Shorelink custom, and remember with affection and amusement, his two hour work shop on the periodic table. But then, how could any of us forget? RIP Bill.

So that has been our summer. A supper at Westfield, two garden parties and a quiz. No-one can accuse this writers group of being boring. And now back to the business of writing. Next week is a reading week, optional theme: I was woken up just after 3am by the phone ringing.

And we are at Tesco. See you there.                        Sally

Party Time – the Shorelink summer!

Time to catch up on this blog, I reckon. Shorelink may have come to the end of term, but that is merely time for our seasonal festivities to begin. The week after our AGM we gathered in Westfield for our annual ‘sunset supper’.  It was, as always, an excellent menu in delightful company. We eventually staggered out into the night replete with both food and conversation. Once more, grateful thanks to Patrick and his excellent staff at The New Inn, for making us so welcome and looking after us so well.

And yesterday was the garden party in our (that’s Ro and me) garden in Brede. Incredibly, it is twelve years since we held the first one here. We had a few years when I was ill that we had to pass on it, but happily that was some time ago. We always look forward to it, and I am probably tempting fate, but so far, we have never been rained off.

Yesterday was no exception, the weather was glorious, the sun magically illuminated the garden and the air was filled with laughter and chat. Perfect! And Isla, Marlow and Billie, our guest dogs, (there are always guest dogs!) behaved impeccably, as did Blue and Connie, their canine hosts.

And now it is onwards to our next garden party in a fortnight’s time in Tony and John’s lovely garden in Hasting Old Town. And then, in a the blink of an eye, it will be next term and our start of the year quiz, (at least, it will if I’ve got round to doing it by then!)

Just looking forward, you understand, not wishing the summer away.  Summer salutations to you all! Sally

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.