It’s always interesting looking back and seeing how one thing, one choice, one decision, led on to such a variety of other things. Sometimes it doesn’t – when we moved to Weston when I was sixteen, I joined a judo club. I joined with my sister and a friend, and having been in a swimming club for many happy years I had an expectation of what a sporting activity and its participants might be like. Later in life, I moved to London to teach in a language centre; I’d taught happily in a tough school before, I was used to living in a city, I had a few friends in London, I’d visited it often enough to know some parts quite well, so I had some expectations. In both these cases, my expectations weren’t realised. The people in the judo club were unfriendly and cliquey, and thought it great fun to throw us newbies down hard onto the floor. The language school had a large number of staff who all went off to different places, those of us who stayed behind were given groups of kids with no materials, no guidance, and it was lucky I had taught in the tough but happy school and could handle it. I was sent out to a school in the area; again, no materials, no books, no paper, no writing board, nothing but me and a group of young people, who luckily were lovely! In both those situations, I left as soon as I could – after a few weeks at the judo club and after a term at the language centre. I didn’t find another social group to join in Weston, but within two years I had left school and gone to Manchester and a whole new exciting chapter opened up for me. With the London situation, I returned to the north, this time to Oldham, and another happy time of my life ensued.
I don’t know how many years ago it was, maybe fifteen, I was in Waterstones having purchased some book or other, and I noticed a sign behind the counter about a book club which was starting. I enquired, noted the details, and the following Sunday I wandered in, to be greeted by the Waterstones lady who was organising the group, and maybe eight or so other people. I can’t now remember what the first book we chose for the following meeting, but I do remember thinking what a nice, interesting and friendly bunch. We continued to meet every month, with a whole variety of different books in different genres; most I enjoyed, some I loved, some I didn’t like at all – but it was always interesting to discuss and share thoughts and ideas.
Over the years there must have been dozens of people who joined and for various reasons left – moving house, changing jobs, having babies or grandchildren, other commitments, too busy to read the book, all sorts of reasons which made an ebb and flow of readers and people I began to know as friends. One of the first was a beautiful blond woman, with a friendly, ready smile who had been at the same school as me and my sister, although several years younger. The members were mostly women, but there was one chap who always had an interesting, thoughtful opinion, and had a way of saying something which made us chuckle, and which afterwards I would think about and ponder on.
It was sheeting down with rain, and it was a weekday and I was splashing my way up the main street when I was accosted by a man with a wizardly air, peeping out from under a dripping rain hood, grinning at me – and after a second I realised it was my interesting book club friend! We escaped the rain to find coffee, and had a pleasant hour talking books, and I discovered that he too was a writer. I’m not sure how much later, maybe a couple of years, time is a peculiar thing, it was book club and we were sitting in Waterstones,, waiting for people to arrive, or get their refreshments, or find a chair, or settle down, when a new person arrived. She wasn’t very tall, but she exuded an air of energy and enthusiasm, and as the meeting got under way, and she began, tentatively at first, to contribute to the discussion, I thought to myself, hmm, she seems like a very nice, interesting person, I hope she continues to come along to the meetings.
Well, long story short, as they say, it wasn’t long before talking about reading developed into talking about writing, and a natural progression was to suggest we might start a writing group. Which we did, meeting first of all in Weston Old Town Quarry, hence our name Writers in Stone. What a brilliant group of friends the writers became, how inspiring, how encouraging, what amazing writers! We used to meet variously for coffee as well as writing, and we began to think that going away for a few days and just writing would be a great thing to do.
Four of us went away for a few magical, inspiring, and frankly hilarious days in Lyme Regis, and we became the Lyme Four. The beautiful, dreamy, smiley blond lady, the mischievous, wizardly and very clever poet, Macaque and his alter-ego, Hamish MacNeill, and the kind, generous, brilliant, hilarious Fenja Hill. Who would think that from trotting along to a reading group in a bookshop, I would meet such great friends and now fellow quizzers?!
You can find us on Amazon – search for:
- Hamish MacNeill
- Fenja Hill
- Lois Elsden
- Writers in Stone – (i) Driftwood (ii) Cuckoo (iii) Lock and key