Shorelink Outdoor Meetings

Yesterday, June 7th, we had our third outdoor meeting in Alexandra Park, having skipped the previous (Bank Holiday) Monday. Unlike our last meeting, the weather was so gorgeous that we eschewed the bandstand, our usual venue, and gathered together comfortably on the grass under the shade of a huge oak tree. My only regret was that the necessity of afternoon meetings at the moment precludes so many of our members from joining us.

 But we were still a motley and enthusiastic crew for both meetings, undaunted by weather, traffic noises and passing public (that’s the peoples and the pups!). Happily, Alvin has solved the problem of noises off by lugging along a mic, so very many thanks to him for that.

Last week’s theme was A month of Sundays and this week’s was The Stain. Of course not everyone chose to do the themes, but as always I am bowled over by the diversity of interpretations from those that do

Both afternoon readings encompassed the usual miscellany. There was a delightful reworking of the Mr Men book, a humorous look at neighbourly (?!) relationships, and an extremely touching piece on teenage embarrassment and friendship, as well as a very creepy story.   To mention just a few among many others. And I do seem to remember something about someone’s favourite vicar, amid other gems, from the previous week.  And several extraordinary and beautiful poems. Love, laughter, thrills and spills, a typical Shorelink potpourri of excellence.

One member came perilously near to transgressing our no politics rule with his passionate condemnation of what he felt was the selfishness of those who refused the vaccine, but judging by the reaction of the group I think we were possibly 100 percent in agreement with him anyway.  As only three of the 126 people currently hospitalised with the Covid Indian variant have had both jabs, it felt like a bit of a no-brainer.

So, next week we meet in the park again, 3pm on or near the bandstand. And the theme was suggested by Sian, and is Dire Consequences.

And here’s hoping that normality is just around the corner.      Sally

Shorelink Outdoor Meeting.

The long awaited 17th May finally arrived, and we intrepid Shorelinkers threw off the shackles of lockdown, and ignoring wind, rain and thunderstorms, met in Alexandra Park. And, oh, it felt so good to see and hear everyone again.

The theme was Swings and Roundabouts and we had the usual eclectic and excellent collection of interpretations. Although happily the rain decided to leave us alone, the wind and the traffic noises sometimes made hearing the readers a bit difficult, but we got better and better at shouting out our pieces as the afternoon wore on.

There were some delightful autobiographical pieces, some spine chilling creepy ones and, of course, some very, very funny ones, as well as two terrific poems which added enormously to the afternoon. What a classy and talented lot you are.

And one of our members came loaded with goodies to keep us from fading away – thanks, Callum, that was really appreciated!

So same time and same place next week, and the theme is Never in a month of Sundays and was suggested by Sian.

SO looking forward to seeing you all again next week!      Sally.

Online Shorelink Week 50

We have finally decided to call a halt to Online Shorelink, so this has been our last week Not that we will stop writing, perish the thought, but because we have a physical (if out-of-doors) meeting lined up where we can actually read our work out loud to each other again. Just like before the world ground to a halt in 2020. I asked you to finish this chapter in our Shorelink life with a flourish and, as always, you rose to the challenge. The theme, suggested by Helen, was The Spider in the Web and it inspired some great pieces.

My difficulty, as always, is knowing where to start, so I think I will go for the one that made me laugh the most, and that was the rephrasing of a couple of old George Formby songs, custom made for a spidery sing along. I wouldn’t mind betting that anyone who was familiar with the tunes had a go immediately – I know I did. Then there was the brilliant draft of the script for a cartoon film, so vivid I could picture every move and hear every note of the accompanying music.

We had two poems from one member, the first an account of the trial of Alice, captivating, even though it cast doubts on the existence of Wonderland – heresy indeed. This was followed by a rather ghoulish spidery story, not to be read too late at night.  Luckily I followed it with a charming fairy story involving a very polite spider, a daisy chain and little girl. Another fairy tale featured spiders centre stage supported by witches and broomsticks, and will stick in my mind especially for the clever depiction of the child obsessed with her crystal ball, obviously the mobile phone from another universe. Loved it.

I am constantly amazed at the variety of the interpretations of the theme.  There was a wonderfully inventive spy story starring a kind of super-spy hiding in plain sight, and a suspenseful and brutal Mafia story – eat your heart out, Mario Puzo!  Another tale depicted a very inventive revenge by a wronged wife.  Then there was a splendid new vision of the World Wide Web with a marvellously unexpected twist in the tale. And, oh, the spine-chilling interview with the prospective nanny, definitely the stuff of nightmares.

There were several more poems. Although the humorous Leaving my epiphany to the spider was submitted as prose it was so poetic in construction and vocabulary, in spite of the meaning being gloriously obscure, it felt like poetry to me. Two soul-searching laments, in their different ways, left me hoping that it is not too late to save our world, in spite of our ecological carelessness. And who could not have been mesmerised by Song of the Spider Goddess?

We had an interesting reference to the importance of spiders in our ecosystem, and superbly eccentric skit on the adventures of 007. Another slightly mad non-spidery submission involved cross dressing, slippers with kitten heels and the WI, what more can I say? Also ignoring the spiders, there was a poem extolling the virtues of Hastings Old Town and hopefully the return of normality to our lives, and a quite lovely one about facing and embracing change.

We read another chapter in the continuing moose story, with Ryan learning more about both his own world and one he finds himself in. This is classy sci-fi stuff-I am looking forward to the next chapter.

Well, there we are. 50 weeks of brilliant, imaginative, ingenious writing. Nearly 1000 contributions. I hope you are all very proud of yourselves, I am certainly proud of every single one of you, yes, even Ro! And not only for the submissions, but also for the online conversations, the constant camaraderie and the support we have all had from, and given to, each other. You have helped to make the lockdowns bearable. Thank you.

We will take this Bank Holiday week off, and I will set a new theme next Sunday for our meeting on 17th. And, If I can finish this series of blogs on a literary note, to quote Tiny Tim, God bless us everyone!


Online Shorelink Week 49

This week’s theme was suggested by Sian and was A Flash of Inspiration, something to be valued in these rather grey times. Several of the contributions were delightfully humorous, for which I  was very grateful,

 We read a wonderfully creepy one about poltergeists, embodying the wide spread cynicism regarding their existence, which then had a suitably scary/funny surprise ending, and a quite charming poem featuring a mysterious would-be plunderer. Then there was a clever skit which managed to evoke both Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes in a crime solving fiasco.

We were taken back in time by a couple of thieving drunks, who eventually find peace and security with a supposedly fierce but ultimately friendly dragon, and then travelled out of time again with a hallucinating giant . And still in the land of make believe, an extraordinary poem about a blind unicorn. This had much to say about misplaced good intentions, but was quite beautiful and thankfully eventually had a happy ending.

There was an interesting nod to an old film, Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. Now as some of you know, old movies are my passion and I could go on for pages about this film and that speech (don’t worry, I won’t!), but probably enough to say here that it is certainly both inspiring and as relevant today as it was in 1940. I wish I’d thought of it.

A very appealing poem about the bumble bee also gave a timely nod to trying to preserve both the bee and the planet. And there a wonderfully witty piece which basically produced a couple of very different essays on misandry – great fun! And at the other end of the scale, there was an atmospheric poem describing the glorious other-worldliness that can be felt walking along the sea shore.

Some of the pieces were more prosaic but I felt very nostalgic reading the potential inventor’s frustration at being beaten to the prize, though I confess it was the so accurate description of the shock of moving from London to the country that rang bells with me –and yes, the darkness of these non lit lanes. No-one tells you in advance how essential a torch and a pair of wellies are!

Another factual piece illustrated the making of a garden, inspired by an artistic feline (OK, so not all fact) and then a hilarious diary of domestic mishaps completed the weeks contributions. We had a few apologies as life is slowly getting back to normal and restricting our writing time. Which is why, next week, which is Week 50, will be the last Online Shorelink and although we can’t quite get back to normal yet, we are going to have a damn good try.

Shorelinkers, a full explanation and plan on how we are proceeding will be winging its way to you later. In the meantime, thank you again, and for our final online week the theme was suggested by Helen and is The Spider in the Web.

Let’s finish this unusual chapter in our Shorelink life with a splendid literary flourish! Sally

Online Shorelink Week 48

Obviously refreshed by their two weeks Easter break, Shorelinkers bounced back with their usual eclectic (and often delightfully eccentric) expositions of Jeanne’s theme, A Slippery Slope. The word count was limited to 500, so considerable imaginative dexterity was required.

Our writer who walks so successfully in the steps of Richmal Crompton made us laugh with another of her hugely enjoyable William stories, and another delivered an elephant tale (I am resisting saying tail!) which conjured up warmth from a frozen surface. And I absolutely loved the poem about the baby bear trying to join his mother on top of the frozen cliff- and happily eventually succeeding!

Another elegiac poem took us into the heart of one of Holbein’s Ambassadors. And just to underline our intellectual credibility, we had an essay on conceptualism in the 17th Century Anglican Church. Impressive, or what?!

Unsurprisingly, several of the stories ended in death and/or disaster, I found myself hoping the 12 year old hijacked pickpocket found fame and fortune on some South Sea Island, or some kind of revenge as enjoyed from the grave by another victim. In another piece, we had to trust that the teenage gang had strong enough lungs to outrun the criminal gang up the slippery slope. Yet another nasty piece of work got his just desserts in a superb tribute to girl power!

A hair-raising one of driving down a frozen hill to get home certainly caused me to remember some heart-in-the- mouth moments, and another, while pointing out the virtues as well as the nuisance of ice, described the difficulties of even making it into the passenger seat from an ice-covered slope. An absolutely fascinating one told of melting snow revealing ground littered with several dozen banana skins- no explanation discovered.  Banana-gate remains a weird mystery. How frustrating!

There was a charming reflection on beach shingle and its many moods, very relevant to Shorelinkers, and another, somewhat less charming but more graphic narrative, of a murderous resident taking dislike of religious canvassers to extremes. There was an apologetic diary from a Shorelinker who was having a bad week, (in spite of finally getting her hair cut!!) and a depressingly familiar stream of consciousness from a potential entrepreneur who appears to be discovering obstacles around every corner. We can only hope that ‘letting it all out’ will help.

Thank you – your versatility continues to amaze and amuse. I am hoping we can meet again soon, but for now it looks as if we must continue online. So, for next week’s theme, one of Sian’s suggestions: A flash of inspiration.


Online Shorelink Week 47

Some classy and fascinating stuff this week, though, of course I could say that with truth about every week.  Our theme was A Sporting Chance and I was especially fascinated by a couple of true stories, which not only followed that theme but also reached back to last week’s theme of Dangerous Waters.

A very gripping one described an evening boat trip off the Devon Coast which turned into a desperate struggle for the three people and young child who were sitting in the prow of the vessel, when it unexpectedly hit rough seas. The writer captured perfectly that initial feeling of disbelief that the danger was real and present, and a peaceful trip had turned so rapidly into a nightmare. Then, after the event, came the inevitable soul searching, coupled with a lifelong admiration for the friend who had made the child’s safety her priority. An unforgettable piece.

Another article recalled the loss of the Darlwynne in 1965, a cabin cruiser licensed for twelve people and carrying thirty one, on an unlicensed ‘jolly’– amazingly it reached its initial destination but then decided to make the return trip in spite of extremely dire weather forecasts.  Neither the cruiser not the passengers were ever seen again.

Moving on from this dreadful tragedy, I was vastly entertained by a gruesome fairy story, full of trolls and lizards and the like, but with a happy ending. And also one which cleverly concealed the ages of the participants until the very end, though I do hope the four year old finally got the better of her bullying elder brother.  There was a creepy story of the man obsessed by women called Caroline, who was trying to outdo Henry V111 both in the number of wives and the methods of dispatching them. Happily, he got his come-uppance in the final paragraph! There was more misogyny in a clever astral-nodding  poem which took a satirical bite out of our civilisation.

A very disturbing contribution from across the pond outlined the misadventures of five friends trying to recreate their boyhood with a camping trip. We are not given a description of what happens to the four who venture into forbidden waters, we just watch how it leads to their early deaths. Sinister, or what?

To cheer us up, and it did, came a story about Henny and Penny, the hungry but competitive hens, and a tongue in the cheek tale of murder at the circus. A short piece exhorted us to bow to our better natures and give the underdog a sporting chance, and another illustrated one romanticised the finding of a tree which bore the resemblance to a boar (see what I did there?  OK – sorry) And we had another chapter in or Moose story, entitled The Hall of Knowledge, it promises to expand Ryan’s knowledge of this other world.

A beautiful poem paid tribute not only to sporty women but to diversity everywhere and whatever the opposite is to misogyny – this was it. I loved it.

I have left until last a fascinating piece on the gorgeous Topiary Garden in Kent, which reads like a joy for anyone who loves gardens, animals and/or art. As that is probably most of us, I am putting the link on here:   www.artgardenthree/,    and let us hope, as the writer suggests, we might be able to meet up there sometime.

Thank you all, your writing makes lockdown bearable. We are going to take a couple of weeks off now over the Easter period, and will restart on 12th April with a 500 word week and I will post the new theme on Sunday 11th

The hope of an indoor meeting is still on the far horizon, but possibly we might grace the bandstand in the park again soon? Fingers crossed.  Happy Easter to you all.


Online Shorelink Week 46

And so, with  a whole year behind us, on we go. Most of us are vaccinated now but, even though hopefully lockdown restriction will soon be easing, the expectation of any indoor meeting remains on a distant horizon. However, my spirits were lifted this week by a wonderful tribute to the group by one of our most prolific novelists: the friendliest, most supportive writers group you’ll ever come across. I think we would all agree with that, but it was good to see it in print.  And I would add that I think the camaraderie has been even more important to us all during this last year.

This week’s theme was Dangerous Waters and, as always, it has been fascinating seeing how differently it was interpreted in the submissions. One of the stories named its psychopathic anti-hero Bengi Walters, a neat twist, and I have a feeling he may be only just beginning his anti-social career. We shall brace ourselves for further revelations. There was a sad tale of the proud owner of some gorgeous Koi Carp who had not known that he needed to protect his pond from marauding herons. Another, rather creepy one,  took us into the Bermuda Triangle – dangerous waters indeed.

At the other end of the literary spectrum was a delightful true story of the rescue of a lamb, fallen into a steep-sided stream, and another heart warming tale described the rescue of a young fisherman and his brother at sea, illustrating vividly the goodwill that exists so often between mariners. And a charmingly descriptive one described the teeming life in a pond, and the many difficulties various species overcome to survive. Ponds figured in several of the pieces. A beautiful but heart wrenching poem used one as a storehouse of memory, touching on several lifetimes of expectations and tragedies.

Another poem was a cry for compassions for those taking to dangerous waters in an often futile effort to find safety on our shores, and yet another remembers the dreadful tsunami at Tohuku while making a plea for the great human gift of positivity. At the other end of the scale, there is was a threnody for the disappearance of the archetypical sights of Hastings, especially, of course, the pier. Or half of it! Only one piece celebrated the sea and swimming joyfully, perhaps surprising in this coastal area.

A gloriously enjoyable poem somewhat reinvented Pandora’s story. Poor girl, no hope there! Another off-piste one outlined the thoughts and ambitions of a gregarious actor during lockdown. We were moved by a subtle and reflective fable about learning, loving and living life to the full while acknowledging all its contradictions.

And yes, just to bring the tone down, once more I have to finish on the hilarious gender swopping essay on the American Old West.  Who could resist the telling of how Wild Jill Hickock and Millie the Kid were gunned down by Sherriff Patricia Garrett? Obviously, not me!

Thank you all once again, you have surfed Dangerous Waters triumphantly. The coming week will be our last until after Easter as we will then be taking a break for a couple of weeks.  For this coming week the theme is one suggested by Sian, A Sporting Chance.

As always, looking forward to reading them.  Sally

Online Shorelink Week 45

Well, yes, that actually did come round quickly as I am doing the blog a day earlier than usual so I can enjoy Mother’s Day tomorrow. I hope everyone saw my advance notice of this temporary change in procedure but if you send in a late piece on Kate’s suggested theme of Hearth and Home, fear not, it will be sent round and filed with the others.

We had such a nicely nostalgic piece sent in involving a childhood escapade with a gang of young boys smoking furtively in a tumbledown cottage in woodland – definitely Enid Blyton stuff (if you don’t know who she was, shame on you). Another warm-hearted one had Nan and her granddaughter resolutely waiting for Grandad’s return from the trenches while holding to a firm belief that love is stronger than war. And yet another had happy memories surpassing even death, although in a rather grumpy way, as the ghost of the previous owner of a house watched the present owner destroying everything she had loved while ‘modernising’ her beloved home.

One tale was more about mother-hate than mother-love, though, a hair-raising story of a woman taking her abhorrence of her absconded husband out on her son, this was chilling indeed, right through to the ghoulish ending.  But I was then cheered up by two great stories  arriving soon after, one concerning an amusing misunderstanding on the subject of garden gnomes and another reminding us older members of the Man from the Pru  though in this case, it was a woman collecting the weekly dibs and meeting sundry eccentrics along the way..

Two other pieces had a riotous time envisaging the fantasised career of one member as a successful Shakespearean thespian, much fun for us all as they outdid each other in non-iambic puns. Which brings me neatly to our brilliant poets. There was a splendid, long and positively Byronesque, epic about lust and love, full of colourful, swirling images. Another mused on the comfort of renting ones hearth and home, as opposed to buying, and one more was a deeply thoughtful reflection on the infinity of ancestry.

Two of us were inspired to write about birds, there was a charming story told by Joey the Blue Budgie as he teased the household cat, and another by a jackdaw who was feeling slightly misunderstood. And a fascinating piece on Arundella, once the historic home of Edward Heath and now (though post-lockdown, I imagine) opened to the public with its magnificent memorabilia and treasures from all over the world. This was illustrated for us and made me want to scoot up to Salisbury for a visit immediately.

So the usual captivating variety. Now I should say at this point that we have one more which came in earlier today from a conscientious member writing on a train whilst keeping her two dogs under control – who needs fiction? But sadly, I haven’t quite managed to interpret it all yet, though I have emailed it round. I shall have a go later, as such a heroic attempt deserves our attention and applause, I reckon!

Once more, thank you all, and especially Kate for providing the theme. Many thanks also to those of you who have sent me more themes – I have a list compiled now which should see us through for a while, which is quite a relief to me. I have chosen another of Kate’s for this week, and it is Dangerous Waters.

I confidently expect to be thrilled, chilled, and amused.   Sally

Online Shorelink Week 44

A delightfully mixed bag this week, the theme was A White Lie, and, as always, it was optional, but it did provoke a broad variety of reaction from those who chose to use it.   Among those, I was highly entertained by the werewolf, keeping his urges under control with daily medication in a Russian sanatorium, and the American Lieutenant with absolute disregard for the lives of his men, who gets his comeuppance in a totally unexpected twist at the end of his story.

The phantom snowman, as is his wont, melted much too quickly, I was sure he had more to tell us. Perhaps another time?  Two of the pieces were reflections on the pros and cons of the white lie, perhaps especially the universal Santa Claus one so often told to children. Some of the contributions were deeply thought provoking, perhaps especially the brilliantly imagined one recalling the transporting of Jews to Hitler’s death camps. And there was a clever and timely reminder that slavery can, and does, still take place – and often right under our noses.

Of the several off-theme submissions, the recent ICU experience of one of our members (happily now back with us!) is described in the sort of detail that could be a case of ‘too much information’ – except he managed to make it hilarious! Well done indeed. And we had a highly amusing skit on both the Hollywood view of ancient history and the current recalibration of our knowledge on who built them. There was also a really charming story, even if it was starring a dead duck, in which our resident punster excelled himself.

I know I have said it before, but we are so fortunate with our poets. I could hear all the sounds of the sea mentioned in one, and in another was fascinated by the beachcombers mystifying find. Back on theme, one poem explored the possibility of absolution for a lie told to spare another from heartbreak. And there was an incredible poem using The Lord of the Dance as a framework, taking us gloriously through the whole of the Christian theology.

Thank you again for sharing your talents so imaginatively. Lockdown has certainly not dimmed Shorelinker’s creativity. Three more weeks until our Easter break, and next week’s theme has been suggested by Kate and is Hearth and Home. Enjoy.


Online Shorelink Week 43

This week’s theme was Fear of Flying and inspired an unusual amount of autobiographical writing. One of our member’s career as a flight attendant was celebrated in a delightful true story describing how comforting a nervous passenger led to a lifelong friendship with an influential politician. Fascinating indeed, though I was relieved to know they were of the same political persuasion.

Politics are theoretically out of bounds as a Shorelink subject, but who could not forgive the description of the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un as of two obese dictators with bad haircuts? That crept into a wide ranging piece which also remembered farmers objecting to the low flying aircraft of the RAF during the Battle of Britain. Apparently they frightened the cattle. Right. Truth, I guess, is often stranger than fiction.

WW2 was also the background for a story, way off theme, about the bombing of a Hastings hotel and one man’s heroism, and also of an affectionate memory of childhood holidays driving through Europe. These reminded one member of her father’s post-war fear of flying, happily not passed onto her as she is just waiting for lockdown to end before going gliding – good on you, Kate!

Unusually, we only had one poem this week, but it brilliantly took us into the realms of a scary Orwellian future.  And. talking of scary, as someone who hates flying, I was surprised to find how many others share that feeling. Certainly the frustrated spouse of the member who has resisted long years of efforts to get her airborne. I think the advice of one contributor to look fear in the eye will be wasted on her. Yet another describes the sheer anxiety and paraphernalia of travelling and the comparative joy of opting for a local resort. Of course, there might not be as many choices of venue in the foreseeable future anyway, given these strange times we are living through.

We had some splendid stories, of course. The Angel of Desire, forced to walk everywhere by a fear of flying and impregnated with a kiss, Sid the seagull who also harboured a fear of flying, and Julia, finally on her way to achieving her life’s ambition of becoming a witch – broomstick notwithstanding.  And what about the poor girl stuck between a truly obnoxious couple on a long flight, finally rescued and seated in Business Class – do hope she enjoyed the champagne, she deserved it.

And a final musing on how much would have been different if no-one and nothing ever flew – from planes, to birds, to insects, how different the world would have been. An interesting thought. Good old Leonardo da Vinci? Or…?

As always, thank you all. If you are all happy to do so, we will continue until the end of March, and then break for a couple of weeks over Easter. I think it is unlikely we will be able to meet indoors again until the autumn at the earliest, but here’s hoping we will manage some outdoor meetings before then.

In the meantime, keep writing. Next week’s theme is a white lie.