Sunday, June 04, 2006

Yorkshire been and gone

Photos will follow; can't seem to post them today. I'm working on a laptop equipped with Office 2003 which for me lacks the most important and useful freebie from the Office portfolio: PhotoEd, which was removed by the software nazis after Office XP, sad be the day. It was replaced by the less than wonderful Picture Manager which is a pain in the jpeg. Here endeth the rant.

Spent last week at Lumb Bank, a baker's dozen of us on a NAWE writers retreat. A good mix of prose and poetry writers from all over Britain, plus one Canadian, wrote feverishly in a scant week of freedom – for most – from the stopper of teaching duties and family responsibilities. The poets took matters into our own hands and five of us sat round the big library table and constructively admired one another’s work for a couple of hours. There was a kick-off workshop by Paul Magrs the first day, which I sadly missed due to an overwhelming need to nap after the previous day's long journey to get here. Magrs' name is known to me because of the Creative Writing Coursebook which he edited with Julia Bell, so I was sorry to miss his workshop. He stayed on for consultations and to give us an entertaining reading in the evening.

We were accompanied in our musings by the cat Ted Hughes who has taken over her namesake’s former home and cosies up to all who dwell here, sadly for the departed dormouse who had an ill fated encounter with her one afternoon and had to be dealt with by two of the writers.

We, as is the custom at Arvon courses, took turns in teams with the cooking, and it has to be said we ate well. Wednesday night’s meal, lovingly prepared by the ro-ro-rho team of Rosie, Rosemary and Rhona, was a Jamie Oliver special, chicken with sweet tomatoes and chillies, and a smoked tofu/falafel variation for the half of us who were vegetarian; tender new potatoes, and carrots and broccoli. Dessert was a heavenly fruit (apple, strawberry, blackcurrent) crumble served with cream, yogurt or ice cream. The night before was a West Country Casserole, which delectably perched grilled sausages on a mixture of onion and apple, accompanied by mashed potatoes. Cheat’s Dessert was a surprising and successful pairing of sliced oranges with crushed gingernut biscuits, smoothed out by ice cream. Vegetarian lasagne was followed by Raspberry Crowdie – raspberries crowded into a bowl of thick yellow cream and sprinkled with oats and cinnamon. We had some spectacular slabs of salmon with perfectly cooked asparagus to end our stay, with a health giving fruit salad to finish.

What there wasn’t was interruption by phone or email: a request to keep phones switched off and the total lack of internet took care of these. Although I had hoped to slink into town to visit the internet café in Hebden Bridge I was thwarted when I learned it had been closed down, and the public library was reportedly out of commission due to renovation work.

Unfortunate. It’s not just the email I wanted to have available, but the resources I’ve become accustomed to using even for poetry - rhyming dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia and quotation resources as well as instant research - I need them all. The centre director - who has to balance the needs of a few grown-up writers on retreat as well as school groups and workshop attendees - insists his policy holds firm because he wants to make Lumb Bank an island of undisturbed tranquility amidst the crashing and intrusive waves of today's technological sea. All very well till you have that one thing you need to deal with from afar...



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