Minutes of the meeting at La Rosa Hotel on the above date.

Present: Fiona, Jenny, Jonathan, Kaz, Lesley, MicheleIan (chair).

Apologies: Adele, GillPip.

Topic: Members’ work-in-progress.


Matters Arising

Ian reminded members that this was the last meeting before the August recess. The next meeting would be on Thursday 1 September 2022. If you need a reminder, please consult the Calendar menu item at the top of the Home Page, which I try to keep up-to-date.

Kaz announced a planned Musical Event on 27 November 2022 at The Cask Inn in Scarborough, the proceeds going to charity. Ian wrongly recalled where it is situated: the above link showing the correct location.

Members’ Readings

Kaz — read a short story: The House on the Hill, dwelling on the House itself, rather than its star-crossed occupants. Victor, a recluse, is visited by Emily plus friend wanting to camp for the night. The stay turns into a longer encounter and presently into marriage and a baby. The loving couple might have lived happily ever after, had it not been for Victor’s crazy sister, lost for years, who returns home unannounced, hoping to resume life as it had been when she left home.
In the ensuing discussion, Kaz mentioned her story was prompted by a well-known property in Whitby that had been demolished to make way for New Bridge. Jenny has discovered an old photo of the house, which now illustrates these Minutes.

Fiona — read her illustrated story for 4-8 year-olds: Simon the not-so-annoying Seagull. Members wondered if the advanced vocabulary and exuberant plot made it less suitable for 4-8 year-olds and more suitable for their parents. Ian and Kaz pointed to Green Eggs And Ham by Dr Seuss as a longstanding model for that age group, using a vocabulary of no more than 50 words.

Lesley — read a fantasy short story. A mother and son, fleeing a pursuing mob, take refuge in a cave. Unbeknowns to anyone, a peace-loving dragon dwells there, who takes their side and confronts the mob on their behalf. Alas the ringleader unintentionally gets burned to death.

Michele — read a further instalment of her novel in-progress: The Undesirables, set in Southern Africa during the Boer War, 1898-1902. Anna, resenting her treatment as one of the “undesirables” (those forcibly removed from their land), attacks the khaki (=British) soldier handing out rations. She is badly beaten and taken to the isolation tent. There she meets a mother and child, who are isolated because the mother complained about infested meat, flinging it back at those doling out rations.
Remembering her father’s advice that her role was not to fight the invaders but to care for her weaker family members, Anna is determined to control her temper. In a week she is released from isolation and returns to her family tent.
Anna’s son Hendrik dies of a fever, Anna having been told to avoid taking him to the hospital tent. There the nurses spoke only English and despised the internees. Then Henrietta’s son Dirke gets fever with a serious rash. This time Anna takes him to the nurse, who recognises measles and puts him to bed. But Dirke too dies, as do many other inmates. In the camp graveyard wooden crosses are no longer available for the deceased.
A wide-ranging discussion ensued, on how far such cruelties were bound to arise due to the British army’s inexperience and lack of preparation for civilian mass-internment. In contrast POW camps have a long history, but conditions for combatants were typically little better. In those days the world had a lot to learn about legislating the humane treatment of civilians, especially in guerilla wars.
The Boer War internment camps may have been the first to be exposed and objectively documented. The Nazi SS were aware of British precedents, which they used for propaganda purposes. Later governments would entrust the administration of civilian camps to organisations independent of the Army. But, as shown by the SS, and the Russian GULAG, this by no means eliminated systemic barbarity, though it reduced the incidence of mass mortality from contagious diseases.
Michele’s book is planned in three parts: (I) Anna’s blissful pre-war life; (II) the horrors of the concentration camps; (III) the desperate post-war situation when Anna returns to her ruined farm. Ian opined that the book would stand out for its ability to convey the subjective reality of civilian internment to the general public, who either ignore the topic or, if knowledgeable, are apt to cloak it in specialist terminology, which encourages a calloused indifference.

The meeting closed at 1:14 PM.