Jim’s Workshop

We were an unusually small group last night, barely making it into double figures. A combination of illness, holidays, working hours and car troubles decimated our usual numbers with a total of twelve apologies. But that did mean that we had longer than usual to concentrate on Jim’s workshop and we made the most of the extra time.

Jim laid out for our perusal a serendipitous array of articles, ranging from a tiny pack of cards to a Christmas banner, and including such items as a Greek lexicon, a toy elephant, a spectacle case, a kitchen timer, a reel of masking tape and a bible. To name a few. We spent some time  admiring and discussing these before each choosing one and getting our heads down and writing about it.

Come the readback, I think I must begin by trying to do some justice to a story that actually was inspired by the writer’s journey into Hastings that evening as well as the objets d’art on display.  Glimpsed from the train, the writer had spotted three young stags, and on arrival, as she is one hell of an artist, she proceeded to draw them for us, before penning her tale.

One of these stags spotted a dropped watch in a field, and determined to try and find its owner. Hanging it from his antlers he went in search of this unknown person, only to be frightened by a noise into misjudging a fence and finding himself inescapably tangled in barbed wire.. Fortunately, much later, along comes a kind man who manages to untangle him. Freed, he runs back to his mates, dropping the watch as he goes. And yes, you’ve guessed it, the kind man is the watches rightful owner. It was a magical, beautifully illustrated, fairy story.

Another writer had picked the tiny playing cards and described how her grandfather had a similar pack, apparently common amongst soldiers and sailors because of the limits on what can be carried. I had no idea this was the reason for these playing cards being so small, and when she went on to describe visiting Gosport with her grandfather and hearing about his time on a submarine during the first world war, I realised I have a lot to learn about that. This was fascinating stuff and a real learning curve for a history lover like me.

I was very impressed that the masking tape managed to inspire an intriguingly dreamy story, and the spectacle case led to rumination on the loss of family businesses, while the elephant led us all on a jolly romp reminiscent of children’s TV in the 60’s. Another member bravely took the Greek lexicon and launched into a thesis on travel as a cure for insomnia – loved that! And some cocktail umbrellas (remember those?) provoked a delightful description of the writer’s family acquiring an absolutely splendid cocktail cabinet in the 50’s.

There were others, but I hope I have given a flavour of the evening. Jim wrote a poetic essay on the meaning and passing of time so we finished with a flourish, and we gave our thanks to him for a most enjoyable workshop.

And I see, quite coincidentally, that the optional theme for our reading week next Monday at Tesco is Time Flies. As I am quite sure it will. See you there. Sally


Kate’s Workshop

Kate’s workshop was entitled Quite by Chance, and she asked us to write a piece, fact or fiction, illustrating how a simple unplanned event can change the course of history. That is to say, the history of the world or our own somewhat smaller part in it. As examples she cited the speck in Celia Johnson’s eye in Brief Encounter and Alice falling down the rabbit hole, small things in themselves, huge in their effect on the participants.

The result was a terrific evening full of factual and imagined happenings, though it was sometimes hard to know which was which. We began with a flourish, listening to a story from one of the embroiderers of the Bayeux Tapestry, and passed on to an animal trainer whose expertise was in the field of aardvarks. Those certainly set the bar high for the rest of us. I wish I could repeat all the stories here, the delightful one of the circumstances of landing a first job, the emotional telling of being saved in a car crash by a divine voice calling instructions, and the two soldiers head to head in WW1 who decide to walk away and each let the other live. Heart warming until you learn that one of them was a certain Adolf Hitler.

There was an intriguing, apparently true, tale by a member who has a double living locally which has caused some embarrassment to her. She has been unable to track her doppelganger down but we shall all be on the lookout now. The stories came thick and fast, we really got our creative teeth into this subject. From climbing Ben Nevis to being interviewed by a bishop for a rather unattractive clergy living, to a romantic story centred around a lost organ key, our imaginations and memories were jolted to good effect.

I did love the one about the chap who refused the gift of a drawing from the artist he had just helped with his luggage, only to find out later the chap’s name was a certain P Picasso…  We heard a love story  concerning the meeting of a couple which has led to a long and successful marriage, followed by a charming one illustrating that you don’t have to be in the first flush of youth to fall in love.

There were more, of course, but I shall finish with Kate’s own story of the disastrous Christmas when her kitchen ceiling fell down. I doubt it seemed funny at the time, but the telling of it was pure slapstick.

Thank you all, especially Kate, for another, very convivial, and typically Shorelink evening – inventive, fun and hugely entertaining.

Reading week at Westfield next Monday, the optional theme Making a grand entrance. See you there. Sally.


Another new year – it may be a cliché , but it seems hardly any time since we kicked off the 2018 autumn term with our traditional start of year quiz.  I guess (another cliché here) time flies when you are having fun! And for all the chaos surrounding us, (thank heavens for the ‘no politics’ rule) when we close the doors, shut out the world and begin our sessions, we do have fun.

Yesterday evening we divided into three teams for what was mainly an Art and Literature quiz, with some occasional side-stepping into more general knowledge.  The three teams competed as Vanilla Cheesecake, The A Team, and Enormous Integrity, which will give you some idea of how seriously we take the whole business. As always, we were sometimes slightly sidetracked down other avenues, ie a discussion of the difference between the books Invisible Man and The Invisible Man (look it up!) and a brief wander into Charles Dickens most famous first lines.

But mostly we stayed on the strait and narrow, and although the participants were close, Enormous Integrity were finally declared the winners and therefore privileged to lead the rush to wash up our coffee cups.

A reading week next week, the optional subject Never let the facts get in the way of a good story – as if we would.

See you at Tesco,   Sally.

Our Annual Garden Party

And once again, my faith that the sun would shine on us all afternoon was justified. Around thirty Shorelinkers and guests lounged among the flowers and foliage, with some splendid nosh conjured up by Gill, our friend and neighbour – yes, we are actually lucky enough to have a chef living next door!

Wine and fruit juice flowed freely, as did the conversation.  We were provided with entertainment by some of our more energetic members, and the dogs behaved impeccably, as did the one cat who appeared briefly to investigate proceedings.

It was a lovely afternoon, and I must mention that two of our American friends made the journey from Illinois especially for the occasion, and have already asked if they can come again next year!

So I guess Shorelink just became international!

Back at Tesco on September 9th, when, as always, we will start the year with a quiz.

See you there. Sally

End of Year AGM and Supper.

Last night we celebrated the end of another Shorelink year with a splendid supper at the New Inn. Considerable revelry and laughter, first rate service and excellent food. Our thanks to Patrick and his staff once again for another great evening..

Last week we had our AGM and re-elected our committee en masse, on the ‘if it aint broke, don’t mend it’ principle, and it gave me great pleasure to be able to thank them all for their input, especially our officers, who work hard to ensure the smooth running of our group. There was a special vote of thanks to Stephen, our treasurer, who was unable to be with us, but had passed all the financial information to Ro, our secretary. Ro delivered it with his usual panache and assured us of Shorelink’s financially security.

Sadly, this term we have had to close our doors to new members for a while as we are in danger of becoming too large to function properly.  But we are aware that this is the price of success, and a good problem to have.

When we had concluded the business of the AGM and consumed some classier than usual refreshments, we divided into three teams for a fun quiz. Happily, at the finish there were only a few points between them and a good time was had by all.

Our new term begins on Monday, September 9th, but before then, we do, of course, have our summer garden party on Sunday, August 18th, so here’s hoping for our usual luck with the weather.

And I know that many Shorelinkers will want to support Tony’s sister Michelle, with her fund raising garden party on Saturday August, 24th, which will be at Tony and John’s house.

So a busy summer again. See you all on the 18th.


Sally & Ro’s Workshop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you all next week.  Sally

John’s Workshop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you there.   Sally

Chris and Chris’s Workshop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you there.  Sally




Nancy’s Workshop

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny’s Workshop

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

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

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

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

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

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