Minutes of the meeting at La Rosa Hotel on Thursday 23 January 2020.
Present: Jonathan, Adele, Sue, Malcolm, Pip, JennyB, Ian (chair).
Apologies: Roy, Louise, Graham, Mike, Lesley.
Topic: Members’ work-in-progress.
The group reconvened in the bar of the Royal Hotel after it became apparent La Rosa was unavailable to us.
Ian would look into the matter and report back.
Once seated comfortably, the group enjoy looking at photographs circulated by Malcolm of the chapel in the Nyanga Mountains he described at the meeting before Christmas.
Sue — regaled the group with a hilarious ten minutes of unattributed dialogue. It presently came clear that the interlocutors were four children conversing in a connected but characteristically superficial way.
Jonathan — had two entries for the Eskdale Festival, class: “Verse Speaking”. One poem had to be the competitor’s own work, the other by another poet. Both poems had to be declaimed from memory.
Pale Moon evoked a sunset kiss, the full moon taking over the landscape’s illumination from the opposite horizon, and how the loved one can appear in a different light with advancing age.
Iliad (by Humbert Wolfe) recalls the beauty of Helen, and the rage of Achilles, from the perspective of the grave.
Malcolm — offered a fascinating, if unfinished, glimpse into Kenyan life from his days as a tea planter. “Dennis”, an acquaintance seeking respite from domestic distress, is taken on a day-out to see a herd of cattle whose sole purpose is to conspicuously occupy some unused land. Without warning Dennis drops dead in front of the children. A phone call to the British legation is met by a recorded message to phone back on Monday, it being the weekend. The dead man is got into the car with difficulty and driven to the local hospital, with just two vacant places in the 4-berth morgue. A death certificate is obtained. Eventually a light aircraft is chartered from Nairobi to take the body there. Only then are the police contacted, who take a dim view of the death not being reported immediately.
Adele — presented a poem she had reworked after a critique by the Poetry Group the Thursday before: We might look, but do we see? The familiar presence of a loved one is conjoined with a felled tree the poet has passed every day but has only noticed by its absence. Adele handed round a printed version of the poem, both before and after redrafting. The poem now starts with the tree and pleasingly comes full-circle after contemplating issues related to perception and taking things for granted, especially those dear to us.
Ian commented that Adele had addressed all the criticisms voiced at the time, and the result was faultless and accomplished. Aspiring poets would find it fascinating to see how the work had developed.
JennyB — continued with her novel in-progress The House Under The Stars. It is the week before Christmas, 1808. “Our Jack”, the vicar, has asked Eliza (the narrator) to provide 100 hot mince pies for the congregation after the Sunday service. Two stragglers appear after the pies have all gone: an orphaned girl and her brother, blinded by measles. Eliza sends back to the house for an expensive box of sweets she had bought for the landlord’s children.
The baking of the mince pies is described from an authentic recipe of the time. Saffron was included, which sparked a discussion about whether such a costly ingredient was being produced in England (Saffron Walden?) or whether it came via the same route as another expensive spice: pepper.
Ian — read a short story from a recent anthology of his stories edited on the occasion of his birthday by his son Max. No Supper for Soddy describes a harrowing 24 hours in the life of a “sink ward” for seriously retarded children. Members asked if the work was authentic. Ian replied that it was not only authentic but true, coming from his experience of being a nursing assistant in 1961. JennyB commented that it must have been impossible to do such a job without cultivating a degree of detachment amounting to callousness, to which Ian agreed.
The meeting closed at 12:50.