Friday, September 02, 2011

Farncombe Estate in Worcestershire covers about 300 acres with stunning views across the Cotswolds, but my previous writers' groups there have been in winter so I've never appreciated this splendid setting to the full. I hadn't seen the lovely silver birch glade in full leaf or followed the nature trail through woods and wild flower fields. August Bank Holiday revealed more of the glorious surroundings to Conference Centre, now a buzzing hive for curious and creative course-goers.
Actually we were unusually un-buzzy this time: our twelve writers were the only participants, giving a curiously Miss Marple-like atmosphere to the big dining hall, a sense of being almost outnumbered by the attentive staff... However, undistracted by murder mystery possibilities, my group energetically engaged with an intensive 3-day programme of writing styles and techniques to adapt to their own themes and projects, producing some wonderful ideas and impressive pieces of writing. Diversity and mutual support are the key strengths for this kind of workshop, and this group was great at providing both.

And now it's September, officially autumn: we can no longer grumble at the ochre tinge on trees and verges or be surprised each day by chilly air. Instead we can enjoy being more pleasantly surprised by occasional mellow days with evenings warm enough to sit in the garden till midges call dusk curfew, as on my visit to my friend Diana in Bath. Diana is a writer & editor, and manages to find journalistic opportunities even in these difficult times when, as she puts it, many of us are 'time-rich' when we'd rather be 'time-poor'. "I don't want to be comfortable," she says "- I want to be resourceful." I agree. The risky edge is the place for writers.

Back in the day, photography was a big part of my life, both images and journalism....everything passes and everything changes, but I still keep a digi-snapper alongside notebook & pen in my bag at all times, and love the new exhibition of prints by Ed Thomas from at Divas - impact narrative in every shot.

Footling footnote of the week: always on the lookout for snappy reviews, was tickled the Radio1 verdict on Madonna’s directorial take on the Wallis Simpson story in her movie W.E: “It’s nice to have a hobby but if you bake cakes and they turn out terrible you should just eat them yourself - don’t press them on unsuspecting strangers”

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