Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Weekend, and Workshop

Post birthday depression has descended, along with grey clouds and rain, after weekend of blazing sun, champagne and celebrating here in the green heart of Shropshire. Oh to wake up to this view every morning…

(...although having to drive across two fields to reach the road and getting out of the car twice to open and close gates would make the school run unbearably complicated. Would have to home educate, or better still - send the children out to work on the land while I wrote lyrical poetry based heavily on A.E. Housman.)

Anyway, back to the weekend. Some friends came down on Saturday evening and we ate outside as the sun slipped behind the hill and the fields gradually dissolved into velvety darkness. The daughters had decided on a formal dress code and had raided the dressing up box for my old University ball dresses and hand-me-down outfits from weddings past, while the men dusted off their dinner jackets. I wore a dress from years ago that had to be held together with safety pins and high heels that kept sinking into the lawn.

Later, when the cheap candles we'd bought from The Co-Op had all burned down into waxy puddles we set off sky lanterns...

Sunday morning was so glorious and green and golden that it would have been a criminal waste not to celebrate it with champagne and breakfast outside, after which we set off to explore. Acton Scott recently featured in a BBC TV series here in the UK called Victorian Farm and the children wanted to spot the celebrity animals who'd made an appearance. (The actual cottage in which the programme was made – authentically minus electricity, running water and an indoor bathroom – is also available to rent. Am charmed by the idea in theory, but as the absence of a hairdryer in the otherwise five-star appointed house we stayed in caused a minor crisis I don’t think we’ll be making a booking anytime soon)

All teenage cynicism and ennui dissolved in the face of newborn chicks and piglets and the competitive task of crushing grain in some kind of huge, clanking iron contraption that was much harder than the junior members of our group made it look. (Must look out for one on ebay – the perfect way to keep children gainfully employed and away from screen-based entertainment, as well as providing excellent personal work-out opportunity. Was reading somewhere recently about a diet that allows cakes and biscuits as long as they’re home-made, on the basis that the calories expended in the cooking makes up for the ones ingested in the eating. Feel that if you’d made your own flour first you’d definitely be allowed second helpings too.)

Yesterday, in a continuation of the weekend's impromptu Victorian theme, on the way home we stopped off at Blists Hill near Ironbridge and wandered around the shops with the stash of farthings and thre’pences exchanged in the bank there. Daughter #1 has a Home Economics GCSE module today and we bought a perfect enamel pie dish for her chicken and ham pie and ate cones of chips fried in beef dripping while looking, urchin-like, into shop windows. By now I was so thoroughly immersed in the whole Victorian vibe that I had to fight the urge to go into the drapers shop (just like the one in Cranford!) and squander our remaining ha'pennies on a bonnet trimmed with silk flowers and lace. Remembered just in time that it might cause the daughters some playground embarrassment and look a little incongruous in the harshly lit aisles of Sainsburys.

However, on reflection it would have been a justifiable purchase after all, since I’m giving a workshop on writing romance this coming Sunday at the National Trust’s Quarry Bank Mill, which is a place so steeped in Victorian ambience that it makes you want to take up sewing samplers and swigging laudanum. I'm not sure if there are any places left, but if you're in the area and would like to come along you can find out the details, and the number to call, here. (I might not have bought the bonnet, but I can't promise I won't turn up in my corset...)


Morton S Gray said...

I'm coming to your workshop with my friend. Ironic really that we are driving to Cheshire when you were less than 10 miles from us on your weekend break! (Bewdley, Worcestershire). Looking forward to meeting you.

India said...

That's great Morton! (That you're coming, anyway, if not the fact that you're having to drive for a couple of hours to get there when I was right on your doorstep at the weekend, which is plain frustrating!) It'll be fab to meet you. You come from a BEAUTIFUL part of the world...

Rachel said...

Ah, if only I lived just a teensy bit closer, India, I'd be at your workshop like a shot.

I read that Her Majesty is doing Cheshire somewhere today--so it might be worth stashing the bonnet somewhere close to hand just in case.

Your weekend looked divine!

Lots of love,


Trenda said...

Hi, India, lovely pix. :-) Sooooo wish I could be at your workshop. That would be a dream come true!

Wanted to stop by and tell you my manuscript (which as you know has been residing on your side of the pond for 17 months) has been officially rejected. *whimpers* Received the letter today. Nice words about my narrative style and voice, though, and an invitation to submit something new.


Morton S Gray said...

Trenda - at least you finished a manuscript!!! I have several in half finished state, so please give yourself a pat on the back despite the "no".
I'm really excited about India's workshop and my good friend Ellie Swoop is coming with me too.

India said...

Oh yes, her Madge is coming to our local agricultural college I believe Rach. Much disgust locally that Crewe Station has not been given a facelift in honour of the occasion, though I don't think she'll be spending much time sitting on a bench with chewing gum stuck to it as she waits for a delayed train. If I had the bonnet I could have gone down there and bobbed a curtsey - that would have distracted royal attention from the scruffiness of the station.

Ah Trenda - I'm so sorry lovey. But though it was a no it sounds like an extremely positive no. They want to read your work again, which is really encouraging.

Morton, make sure you introduce yourself and Ellie immediately! (I'll be the one looking flustered, wearing the corset...)So looking forward to meeting you both.