Minutes of the meeting at La Rosa Hotel on Thursday 14 November 2019.

Present: JonathanJennyB, Adele, MikeSue, Lesley, MalcolmPipIan (chair).

Apologies: RoyLouise, Graham.

Topic: Members’ work-in-progress.


Matters Arising

Ian had circulated details of the Christmas Party on the day of our last meeting of the year: 12 December. The hotel wanted payment by 1 December, plus attendees’ choices from the menu. Ian had printed the menu on the back of a poem sheet he distributed.

Sue offered two textbooks from an Open University course: MA in Creative Writing, which a friend of hers had just completed, saying as she dumped the books on her “I never want to see them again” – an endorsement which proved insufficiently attractive to win her any takers.

Members’ Readings

Mike — read an article Nothing gets better than Operetta, a collection he is making with the working title of This Is My Yorkshire. It traced the emergence of Operetta as a popular alternative to classic Opera – simpler plot, easier to follow without prior knowledge of the work, and of course performed in English – to its eventual displacement by stage versions of American musicals like Oklahoma! and South Pacific. Mike also blended in reminiscences from his own stage career, including widespread disapproval of his not going down t’pit like his contemporaries in his West Yorkshire village, the need to get his voice trained and to learn to tap-dance, to his eventual withdrawal from a degenerating London scene typified by shows like Hair and Oh, Calcutta!

Ian — read a poem Child Sacrifice, dedicated to Greta Thunberg. Pip asked for more background than was offered by the poem itself. Ian claimed inspiration from a BBC archaeology film made in Guatemala, a flat forested land riddled with cenotes: water-filled sinkholes in the limestone bedrock which provided the irrigation upon which the brilliant Mayan civilisation was built. As the water supply ran low due to climate change, contributing to the collapse of their society, the Mayans seemed to have propitiated the environmental gods with child sacrifices deposited at the bottom of a certain cenote.

Adele — read a monologue: Freedom, detailing the oppression the poet and her occupational colleagues suffered at the hands of a bullying and manipulative boss.

Malcolm — explained that he had made a start on his memoir of planter life in India and Africa, but felt he was being diverted by a need to expand on his formative National Service experience during the Malayan Emergency. Ian observed that whereas most people have one worthwhile book in them, Malcolm might actually have two, and his problem was which to give priority to. The general feeling was that conscription was the topic to address first, with its compelling story of foreign adventures at a time when few people ever went father than the next county in their lives.

Sue — read an extract from her long short-story (7,000+ words): Tea with Mrs Devi. The eponymous lady, a recent incomer, joins the Wednesday Afternoon Women’s Group, where the fact that she is blue and has four arms goes unnoticed. When Jolynn, the rebellious daughter of the hostess Helen, gatecrashes the meeting, Mrs Devi interrupts the flow of time to engage the girl in private conversation, during which she reveals she is the Hindu Goddess of Smallpox.

Lesley — read out two pieces which Ian and others commended as accomplished.
1. As a schoolboy Colin was branded a coward by his friend Tony for declining to take part in a firework escapade on Bonfire Night, which however led to Tony’s death. In adult life, Colin reinstates himself in his own eyes with a conspicuous act of bravery in averting a bonfire accident, of which he is forewarned by a vision of Tony as the bonfire effigy.
2. In a piece which Jonathan identified as an alphabetic acrostic, Lesley succeeded in  transcending the limits of the form to present a convincing short story revealed in love-letters found in an attic.

Pip — read out a blurb for her autobiography of growing up on a Caribbean island. She had a question for the meeting: was it tempting enough to make the listener want to know more? Yes definitely, it was unanimously agreed, though Ian warned that the commendably alluring description was characteristic of a torrid romance and might just mislead the reader as to the book’s real genre(s), viz. non-fiction, travel, coming-of-age. Several members emphasised the importance of the blurb to selling the book and felt that time spent on it was far from wasted.

Jonathan — read a poem Plot Night. This is a regional name for Guy Fawkes Night, but stressed the angry mood of the country and how this had displaced the usual feeling of carefree celebration.

Any Other Business

Ian confirmed that the first meeting in the New Year would be on Thursday 9 January 2020. He also reiterated the need to have final party numbers, menu choices and payments at our next meeting on 28 November, after which he would take them to the White House.

The meeting concluded at 12:55 PM.