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

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