It was wild, wet and windy and … Readaround 17 July 2019

On a wet night the troops all headed south to enemy territory – Dumfries and Galloway – for the latest Readaround. We arrived: “The Magnificent Seven.” Jeanette welcomed us to her lovely home in the former mining village of Sanquhar . We felt very comfortable.

Now to business. We drew lots and Chris went first. His story The Day It Went Away was as cryptic as the title suggested. It took me a while to work out what “It” was because the clues in my mind were deliberately misleading. This clever work was about trying to find out where “It” had gone to and all sorts of investigations proved to be negative. Eventually “It” was revealed as Selective Mutism. In discussion it was suggested that a traumatic physical event could well provoke such a phycological condition. I cited my hand burn at five, and resulting stammer. I may have missed it, but I am suspecting this story is about a real experience. My interest was whetted by this story.

Marion had a bee in her bonnet. In a world where only ten percent of the population is left-handed she cited many ways such people are institutionally disadvantaged and how difficult it is to cope sometimes. Now that many left-handed implements and utensils are made, life can be less frustrating but for many it can still be a challenge. Even writing with a fountain pen could prove problematic. In discussion, the number of famous Lefties, from scientists to sports people, showed that left-handers weren’t left behind. Years ago left-handed people were forced to use their right hands, possibly causing emotional problems. An interesting facet of our society.

Nigel had written about an old teacher of his who was clearly a role model. “Bod” – every teacher gets an unflattering nickname – had unknowingly fed Nigel’s love for the great outdoors and Munro climbing by showing selected boys how to climb, abseil and so on. It had clearly a great effect and going to places like Skye to take part in such activities had laid down not just his future recreation vision but the writing showed a clear fondness for this man, a fondness I suspect was not shown too prominently at the time (peer pressure being the factor remembering back to my school days). It was more than just rock climbing but learning useful life skills (buttering bread correctly!) Nigel had been struggling with a title but Learning the Ropes was considered an appropriate one.

Carolyn had finished off a story previously read in its uncompleted form and was very funny. It involved the subject having just lost out in an office promotion to a man, Adrian. The somewhat smarmy guy had invited her and others to a “celebratory drink”, no doubt to rub salt in her/their wounds. The main part of the story was a wedding of presumably one of the office staff in Perth. Cathie, our main person had booked into a B&B and from her description it was run by a Landzilla of a lady. She went off to the wedding,  got back a bit drunk at one a.m. and was chastised for making noise at two a.m.! At breakfast the next morning she had been first but as it filled up she noticed Adrian with A.N. Other (sic!) not his spouse at another table and took an accidental “selfie” with them pictured in the background.  We all thought this was an excellent plotline to allow much mischief-making. Very funny.

I had written a story of my exploit as a film extra. Getting up at five a.m. to travel to Glasgow, meeting many seasoned extras, and getting our outfits for the shoot. Scotstoun Stadium was the first setting for the TV advert involving fifty scantily-clad people of all ages. It was an exercise in doing what you were told, again and again until the director had what she wanted. The afternoon session was at Loch Lomond where again to me it appeared that the film crew were just making it up as they went along. I wrote the piece as a humorous account of my day and after making a few amendments am considering it for the Imprint competition.

Alan was working on a children’s story about a puddle! Plop was a very innovative idea about water, rain, evaporation, clouds and snow. It detailed how such elements could imaginatively be brought to life “Plop” has a girlfriend “Plip” and they have adventures, including becoming part of a glacier. The lot of us were very taken with the idea and agreed that an illustrated version of it could be very attractive. Alan himself was in contact with some illustrators so it was an ongoing project indicating the talent in the room.

Jeanette was still looking for her own voice and persona. The idea of an “Alan Bennett” type monologue was attractive and still under consideration. She read an extract from author Nina Stibbe, and thought it represented, to some extent, what she was aiming for. We all encouraged her to “have a stab” and hopefully soon we will seen Jeanette’s work starting to flow. It can take time to get started!

The trip back was wet and windy but Plip and Plop vanished just south of Kilmarnock!

Eddie Phillips     

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