Minutes of the meeting at La Rosa Hotel on the above date.
Present: Adele, Harry, Jenny, Michele, Ian (chair).
Apologies: Gill, Jonathan, Kaz, Lesley, Pip.
Topic: Members’ work-in-progress.
Ian welcomed members to the meeting, which went straight onto its business: members’ readings.
Adele — continued reading from her Covid diary, from mid-October 2021. Her mother and partner were in a group of old people who partied on till 1 AM. The next morning they were in a sorry state.
The roll-out of booster jabs is slow. Things are a lot less well-organised than they were in the initial phases. People and venues that were able to volunteer their services to handle the numbers have now resumed their normal occupations: doctors, nurses, those in the hospitality industry. Except for a few countries remaining on the red list, overseas arrivals can now enter the country freely, because there is little reason for control.
The numbers of dead and infected people in the UK are far the highest of any developed nation. Might this be due to undercounting by other countries, or a consequence of the lateness of the UK response to the initial emergency?
Jenny — continued reading from her period novel in-progress based on the historical figure of Mary Eleanor Bowes, the heiress of a vast fortune from the Durham coalfields. Promoted to ensign in the British Army, the handsome attractive and wholly unscrupulous Andrew Stoney has arrived in Newcastle-upon-Tyne from Ireland, and is envious of the wealth he sees all around him: the proceeds of the burgeoning coal-industry. As he explains to his friend Ned (a well-connected Geordie), he wants to marry, and since he has no money himself, his wife must have plenty of it.
Introduced by Ned to Miss Hannah Newton, a rich but plain young lady, he sets about ingratiating himself with her and her family.
But while taking a solitary walk by the riverside after the Ball, a beautiful prostitute offers her services free-of-charge.
Ian — read a poem: Where do candle flames go when you blow them out? In which he sets out a menu of contending eschatologies (that part of theology concerned with death, judgement, and the final destiny of the soul). He is not believed when he protests that the poem is only about candle flames.
Michele — read a further instalment of her novel in-progress: The Undesirables, set in Southern Africa during the Boer War, 1898-1902. The Ladies’ Committee have reported back, and changes are starting to take place in Camp Irene. The new civilian superintendent sets up a camp hospital (in a tent), and realises that nourishment must be improved for the patients, and by extension for the camp as a whole. There is also a dire need for nurses who can speak Afrikaans as well as English, a requirement that is going to be hard to fulfil. Anna is approached with an offer of a job as a trainee nurse.
Mogau is still working in the Officer’s Mess, and is able to smuggle back surplus food to the Pretorius family tent.
Anna comes across Frederick whittling away at a piece of wood. He is carving toy ox-carts for the children, and Anna donates her good-quality knife to the cause. She receives a telegram from her father to say that her brother Hans has been killed in action, and her oldest brother Neels has been taken prisoner. In the night she is afflicted by a child’s crying, and she gets up and prowls the camp looking for the source of the distress, but cannot find it. She wonders if she is being haunted by the baby she has buried: her mother’s unwanted bastard child resulting from being raped by black soldiers.
Harry — read a mood piece of a childhood memory of travelling by bus to see his dying grandmother. A discussion followed about writing in the present tense (ideal for conveying a child’s impressions) versus the past tense (good for reportage and factual description).
The meeting closed at 1:05 PM.