Minutes of Woking Writers Circle meeting on Thursday 25 October 2018, at St Mary’s Church Hall, Horsell

Present:   Hilary (chairman), Alan (minutes), Heather, Amanda, Peter, Liz, Shaun

Apologies: Greg, Sarah S, Tricia, Cathy, Sarah DD

 

News: Peter announced that the AGM would be on Thursday 22 November, i.e on the same night as the November meeting, which will consequently start at 7.15 pm instead of the usual 7.30. He also explained that there will be no meeting on the fourth Thursday in December, due the proximity to Christmas.

Peter very kindly invited members for drinks, at his home, on Thursday 20 December. This enthusiastically received alternative to the reading meeting led to a suggestion that guests would enjoy the hugely popular “Dermot’s Game”, named after its illustrious Woking Writers Circle inventor. Short prose or poems were also welcomed. Hilary offered to arrange for everyone to paint their self-portrait, ensuring an aghast audience that this could be rapidly and easily achieved by anyone. Details of this fascinating apparent contradiction of art history remained tantalisingly unavailable, in best short story plotting tradition.

Liz reported that the book group met in early October, with members reading their own choice of book on this occasion.

Liz had visited Tate Liverpool, acquiring several physically and metaphorically abbreviated A4-sized magazines, or  “zines”. These resembled a previous, VSO-themed example that she had distributed in Woking. Comprising several miniature “pages” of text and images on a single, folded and slit sheet of A4, they could be rearranged and displayed in various configurations.

Alan brought a photocopy of an article he’d had published in this month’s issue of Best of British magazine. Retitled by the editorial team as “Talking About The Tall Ships”, it had begun life as “Moonrakers, Masterpieces & Matrimony” and dealt with his childhood enthusiasm for square-riggers.

On the table: Details of competitions, events or other literary items.

No physical literature this month, but members briefly discussed renewal of the NAWG membership, with a general consensus of approval for continuity.

 

Readings: The homework theme was “Animals”.

Heather read another of her impressive and very popular wildlife scenarios, called Dancing With Foxes. This skilful blend of humour, self-deprecating irony and pathos was another masterclass in deft, understated, wryly accepting gentleness. It chronicled Heather’s initial pity and maternal feeling for a dejected, half-starved fox that had tottered into her garden. Animal instincts surfaced with TLC-induced recuperation, however, leading to Durrellesque scenes of destruction and chaos, accompanied by very moving feelings of rejection, ultimate resignation and acceptance.  A beautifully crafted cameo, that was universally admired and enjoyed. General reflections on “nature, red in tooth and claw” followed.

Liz read a piece about VSO, following an invitation, as a past volunteer,  to County Hall, Kingston-on-Thames, to celebrate the VSO scheme’s 60th anniversary. No one from Singapore, where she had formerly served, was present, however. The closest, geographically, was a silver-haired veteran who had been to Sarawak. Most of the others had served in Africa and Liz enjoyed comparing notes about remembered experiences. A darker and challenging passage in her piece concerned a young woman, who described seeing dead bodies on her unwelcomed and subsequently curtailed VSO spell in Nigeria. Discussion turned to possible formatting of these memories into a single, cohesive piece. Everyone admired the contrasts between the serious and more light-hearted passages. These seemed potentially pivotal points on which to focus.

Peter read The Egelivirp Chronicles, based on the history of a bygone Muscovy duck, partially recorded in the local parish news of the time. Laconically informed by the title anagram, this was an exquisitely whimsical and ironic allegory, gently but devastatingly eviscerating contemporary social, political and economic pretensions. All admired this clever and original dissection of contemporary hypocrisy, achieved with poetical rhythm and subtle inference, some of which echoed Samuel Butler’s Erehwon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erewhon.

Hilary read another section from her novel, managing to encompass the homework theme by choosing a passage about chickens. This section found Sam, the protagonist, at her boarding school, being taught the principles of chicken management and care. Sky, a dictatorial fellow pupil, cradling a favourite chicken called Matilda, proceeds to enrage and humiliate Sam, by criticising the latter’s every attempt to master control of the wilful creatures. Sam’s memories of acute embarrassment and revulsion came across very strongly, in the taut, gripping narrative. Sam’s violent reaction to Sky’s patronising attitude dominated these memories very effectively. Charging away, livid, from her tormentor, jumping into a pool, then experiencing the dissipation of her anger, Sam’s character was extremely effectively developed. Everyone admired the descriptions, together the maintenance of pace, despite the rich imagery, a balance universally acknowledged as an accomplishment in itself. Speculation arose as to whether Sam’s period of immersion was predicated on her anger pattern.

Shaun read the blurb for his next book, “Pablo Escobar’s Story”. This included a reference to UNILAD, which, those of us unversed in such matters learned, is a significant and influential online entertainment platform for the 20-30 age group. Discussion of the draft blurb revealed that the crucial “unique selling point” of this book was its being the most up to date work on the subject. Many of Pablo’s exploits have never, hitherto, been translated from Spanish. Peter made several greatly appreciated and admired suggestion for improvement to this blurb, possibly the best of which was to start the text with ”Mama’s boy”, to achieve a truly attention-grabbing format.

Amanda read a prose poem called ‘Freedom of Movement’, written, topically, “hot off the Eurotunnel.” This was greatly admired, as a light, subtle commentary on all the Brexit social, economic and political implications. The narrative employed a seagull as a hauntingly effective symbol of the hapless immigrant. It was “free as a bird”, yet vilified and thus enmeshed and restricted, as exemplified in the parental attitudes so powerfully eviscerated by the writing. The combination of a deft, light touch, that nonetheless achieved such power and resonance of narrative and voice that it impressed everybody. The contrast between the images of desperation and the superficial prettiness of the landscape was particularly compelling. Suggestion were offered concerning minor tightening of the prose, leading to a general discussion of poetic and structural refinement.

Alan read “Controlling Interest” in which an escaped, unnamed horror from a local laboratory of an initially unspecified nature proceeds to wreak havoc, taking control of a wife and dog’s minds. The ending was enjoyed, leading to Alan’s revealing Roald Dahl’s “Tales of The Unexpected” as the source of inspiration.

 

Next meeting: AGM, followed by reading meeting, at St. Mary’s Church Hall, Horsell, 7.15 pm (to accommodate the extra time for the AGM)  on Thursday 22 November.

Please note that parking spaces are available in adjacent side streets. The school car park opposite the Church will only be opened by arrangement.

 

Chair: Amanda

Minutes: Heather (AGM & Reading Meeting)

Wine: Peter

Milk & Biscuits: Liz

 

Homework: Either: Winnie The Pooh & his philosophy of Life, or just “Oh Pooh” (spelling optional).

 

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