A Blast from the Past 2020

Dr George Herring was our adjudicator and, as current regulations forbid any face to face meetings, was good enough to send us his very detailed notes. They are very much appreciated. The winner will receive the trophy once we are able to get back together again.

Greetings fellow writers.
I had been looking forward to meeting you all in the flesh, but, with a cruel irony, historical circumstances have made that impossible. We will certainly remember the year 2020 but now more for the appalling plague that is currently afflicting us here in Britain as it is around the world than for anything else we could have imagined but a few short weeks ago. I do hope that you have all managed to avoid catching it. For myself, at the point of writing this, I have been in self-isolation for over three weeks as I am one of those with ‘underlying medical conditions’, in my case asthma.
But on to happier things in the hope that this will help to raise our spirits, give a boost to our morale, and remind us that all things, however dreadful, do indeed pass.
I shall begin with a few words about myself. I am a historian by profession. I read history as an undergraduate at Leicester University before proceeding to Keble College, Oxford, for my doctoral research. I arrived in Ripon in 1980 to take up a teaching post at what has subsequently become York St John University. When I left that particular institution some twenty one years later I was Senior Lecturer in the history department. Since then I have mostly taught mature students at Bradford, Leeds and York Universities, as well as a number of classes for the WEA, one of which used to be on a Thursday evening in Ripon. I am also the author of three books: What Was the Oxford Movement? ( Continuum, 2002 ); An Introduction to the History of Christianity: from the early Church to the Enlightenment ( Continuum, 2006 ); The Oxford Movement in Practice: The Tractarian Parochial World from the 1830’s to the 1870’s ( Oxford University Press, 2016 ). In addition I have written a number of individual chapters for published collections. As you will probably guess from their titles, my books reflect my research interest which is Church history, and especially nineteenth century English Church history. My teaching, however, as with many academics, has covered a variety of periods and topics from the Crusades to the Second World War.
History, as you might imagine, has been a particular passion of mine, and one that I acquired at the age of nine when I read a book about Napoleon which began to open up undreamt of worlds for me. But alongside that, and acquired at about the same time, I also have equal passions for both music and literature. History, however, was the discipline that I was most fitted to study at university and the one that would eventually pay the bills! But I have maintained those other passions throughout my life. And, once my last academic book had been delivered to the publishers in 2015, and with retirement imminent, I was at last enabled to pursue them with far more time at last available to me. Thus in 2016 I embarked upon something I had been planning to do for nearly fifty years and began writing a novel which combines all three. The Prelude and Part One were completed in 2018, together running to some 102,000 words. I am currently about 50,000 words into Part Two. I love long works of literature, as I do long music, reflected in my reading and listening habits from Dante to Proust and Dostoevsky to Wagner and Mahler.
So what was I looking for when I initially sat down to read the seven short stories submitted for this competition? At the most basic levels I first of all had a concern for historical accuracy. I drive my poor wife to distraction by pointing out mistakes in historical films and dramas on the television; we had to abandon watching the series about Queen Victoria after only one episode as I had already observed a number of blatant mistakes! Most recently I saw a few minutes of the first episode of Belgravia in which an officer on the eve of Waterloo hoodwinked a girl into a false marriage by persuading a fellow officer to reverse his collar and imitate a clergyman. Unfortunately this would have been impossible in 1815 as modern clerical collars did not exist for many more decades. If you have seen any Jane Austen adaptations you will have observed that Anglican clergymen of the period wore white cravats wound round their necks and tied off at the front. Whoops!
If you will allow me, then, to get some negatives out of the way, I did observe a few such mistakes in the short stories you wrote, but mostly in terminology and vocabulary. For instance medieval monasteries did not have ‘services’, they had choir offices; in a Christian context it would perhaps be better to employ the term resurrection than reincarnation; and in the Second World War terms like ‘elitist’ are quite anachronistic, descriptions of men as ‘guys’ was restricted to Americans, and RAF officers did not hug one another! Apart from that a number of you obviously did your research very carefully, from Victorian railway timetables to details of Second World War rationing.
My second basic concern was more literary. Aristotle put it very succinctly nearly two and a half millennia ago in his Poetics when he wrote: ‘The historian describes the thing that has been, and the poet a kind of thing that might be’. So as far as actual writing is concerned I was looking way beyond simple accuracy. However, there was the odd mistake in terms of spelling, grammar and punctuation, but I think I could put that down more to typos than anything else. On the whole, I found them to be very well written and quite clear in terms of what they were intending to convey.
In both of these, historical and literary accuracy, they differed, as in so many other ways, to the 2,000 word history essays I spent my professional life marking. The latter varied enormously in terms of both accuracy and literary merit. Believe me, reading seven short stories on a variety of topics was far more entertaining than marking forty essays all with the same title!
Beyond those basic concerns, I was looking for something special, something that would stand out, both in its use of history, and literary art. For one thing, why write any story set in the past? Is it designed to make a point about the present by lifting issues into a contrasting and very different time period? Or is it transforming the particular into the universal, one of the most important functions of any art form; the particulars of a time into the universals of human experience? Think of Tolstoy and War and Peace set in Russia largely between 1805 and 1812, but written in the 1860’s. In his case he deliberately chose the most momentous year of Russian history, which they still call ‘the year 12’, to make quite a number of points, one of which was about the nature of the historical experience itself with all those long philosophical discussions that drive some readers to distraction. And also setting his characters into one of the most physically and psychologically demanding of situations, which happened to be historical, in order to test their moral resilience.
Another concern was the stipulated length of 1,500 words. That is quite short, even for a short story! The skill is to convey what the author intends in succinct and precise language. It is an exercise in economy.
I would have to say straight away that there was indeed one of the short stories that stood out for me in these terms immediately on the first comparative reading. But I will resist saying more for a moment.
First I will briefly run through the stories in the order they were presented to me. And I would emphasise at this point that they are, at least for me, all anonymous. I will try to convey their details and what I take to be their purposes, including some comments on what I think are their strengths and weaknesses. As with all literary criticism there is a significant element of the subjective, no matter to what extent I try to find a number of comparable objective criteria. These are not history essays, but pieces of imaginative fiction using the overall title of Blast from the Past. So there is no right or wrong way to approach it.

Thank Goodness Luck Would Have Her
This title is an amusing play on words. It purports to be what I take as an elderly man reminiscing on one of his amorous exploits in the 1860’s. He had been a relatively wealthy young man who ‘takes advantage’ of a young servant girl and accidentally fathers a child, and discusses the subsequent arrangements for their upkeep. The word play derives from the surname of her fellow-servant husband: Luck. One strength of this piece is that such things did indeed happen with a certain degree of regularity. It is obviously based on a knowledge of Victorian England and the period feel is most authentic, including the details of the financial calculations employed in the upkeep of mother and child. I would, however, have one or two hesitations. Who is this written for? Given that the author has been very careful to keep the details secret, why is he now recording this, and who is the intended reader(s)? Is the point that Victorian England was a harsh world of extreme class difference based on relative wealth and poverty – perhaps this could have been given greater prominence. And is the author writing this in a regretful mood – again that is rather unclear. An intriguing idea, well-written, but perhaps its moral purpose needed more definition.

Departure and Arrival
This is an interesting interpretation of Blast from the Past as it is set entirely in the present day. A single lady approaching sixty years of age living in Australia sets out in search of her English ancestry, eventually arriving in Whitby. She meets an Englishman of a similar age who offers to drive her around in her search for her ancestors. An attraction develops between them that leads her to see this journey as a homecoming in more ways than one. Its strengths are the gentle way in which it leads the reader towards its conclusion reflecting the age and nature of the protagonists, and the way in which it teases with the somewhat open-ended nature of their relationship at the conclusion. However, I get the feeling that this would have been more suitable for a longer treatment; quite a lot of potentially interesting detail is rather truncated. Also the accidental meeting between these two characters does feel a little contrived, perhaps again deriving from the relative brevity of the piece; I get the impression that a series of encounters leading to their drives would have added more depth to the nature of their mutual attraction.

Boris the Bandit
This is an intriguing, not to say cynical, interpretation of the well-known Christmas carol about King Wenceslas and the peasant he observes carrying his heavy burden. It revolves around this peasant in actuality being a rather wealthy bandit and the spy he has in the castle who informs him about the comings and goings of important guests. The carol was written by John Mason Neale, a very well-known Victorian clergyman who appears in my books on the Oxford Movement. Unfortunately the real Wenceslas, King of Bohemia in the 10th century, was murdered by his brother when only in his early twenties, so the portrait of him as an elderly man is somewhat inaccurate! Once again it is well written, employing an unusual and imaginative twist to the original tale.

An Easter Blessing
This story is set in 1946 in the period of austerity in the years after the end of the Second World War. It paints a detailed picture of life in these years and revolves around a mother and daughter struggling to survive while they wait for the father to return from the war. The daughter has a particular skill in embroidery which she employs to make extra money. It is a very poignant piece, emphasising the harshness of life for some in contrast to the relatively affluent existence of others. Once again it ends on a note of optimism with the mother clutching a telegram telling her of the imminent return of her husband. Extremely well researched and giving a very believable picture of life at the time. If I have any criticism it would be that it is perhaps a little self-conscious and heavy-handed in recounting the details of rationing and life generally at that time.

Head for Home
Another Second World War story, if this time set during the Battle of Britain in 1940 and centred around two new and very young RAF pilots flying their first combat missions, and how they are helped by their commander who gives the one preparing to marry his lucky rabbit foot. Perhaps inevitably the commander without the lucky charm is the one to be shot down. It is, once again, good on the actual detail of aerial warfare of the time, and conveys the sense of nervousness and anxiety of young men about to fly into battle for the first time. However, I would have to say that the fatal conclusion is a little predictable. I think any reader would see it coming. So the twist in the narrative is not particularly original.

Stones
A very clever piece of writing. The story is in fact two stories set centuries apart but linked by the Angel/Green Man carving on one of the windows of the Chapel of the Nine Altars at Fountains Abbey. We begin with Abbot Huby arriving back at his abbey with a boy who was to be found a place in the community, presumably as a lay brother. The third paragraph is then a jolt as we have another character on a quad bike, and suddenly we shift from c1510 to the present. To cut a potentially long story short, the tale revolves around mysterious music coming from Abbot Huby’s tower and the carving. It uses this piece of carving as a vehicle for a comment on the longevity of the abbey and how that inspires the 21st century man to carry on despite his financial difficulties. It is quite an original idea, and rather beautifully executed with the paragraphs alternating between the two time frames. If I have any adverse criticism it might be that in building a bell tower, which he also intended as a personal residence, Abbot Huby was in clear contravention of Cistercian principles; no precious metal, no wall paining, plain rather than stained glass, only the simplest of decoration to the stonework, and absolutely no bell tower. Was there a way that could have been employed as a commentary?

A Notebook and Knitted Bootees
This is a passage from a much longer work intended eventually as a novel. A lady of 87 uncovers a notebook that she kept as a child, once again in 1940. One of the most notable things is how the author has written the notebook with the kind of spelling and other mistakes a young girl would have made. It gives it a sense of both authenticity and poignancy. It even has a simple poem purportedly written by the child. There is a sense of pathos at the conclusion as the little girl’s newly born brother had clearly died and his first little pair of bootees were enfolded inside the notebook. It leaves the little girl now an elderly lady ruminating on her life and what her little brother would have been like, but leaving her as the last surviving member of her family. It is very well written with a sense of emotional restraint and without any unnecessary sense of mawkishness which produces a nicely judged balance on which the pathos rests. It is possibly a drawback that, as a part of a longer work, it needs some authorial explanation at the beginning.

The Adjudication

So the moment you have all been waiting for has arrived.
As I said earlier, it was clear to me from that initial read through, and has been confirmed by further reads, that, for me, one particular story stands out. Trying to find a second and a third place has, however, been much more difficult. Even when I finally decided which two pieces to award those places to it was far from clear which order to place them in. I almost considered awarding them joint second place, but decided instead to take the plunge and make a decision. But obviously the gap between them is wafer thin.
So, in Third Place is: A Notebook and Knitted Bootees.
I think my comments on the story make it clear that I see a number of strengths in this piece of work. The thing that finally decided me not to put it second was the fact that it is not a discrete entity but taken from a larger work. I can only hope that the completed novel lives up to the expectations of this extract
In Second Place is: An Easter Blessing.
This just managed to pull clear of the above because it is a complete story in itself. Its period detail was impressive and added a sense of authenticity to it. It is also well-crafted with an ending that is not unbelievable but still slightly unexpected. A story that remains in the memory.
Which leads on to the final award of First Place. And this is: Stones
From the first time I read it I was impressed by the audacity of the concept and the clever way it had been executed, especially its alternation between time frames. It does that thing I mentioned earlier: takes the particular and identifies the universal behind it. I am sure we have all seen the Angel/Green Man in Fountains, and wondered and marvelled at it. This is an original concept using that amazing artefact as its centrepiece. If it seems a little far-fetched, and if the mysterious music seems rather unreal, I would refer you to a true master. When writing The Brothers Karamazov between 1878 and 1880 Dostoevsky wondered about the place of realism in literature as his novel contains several examples of the visionary, and the mysterious verging on the miraculous. In the notebooks which accompanied its composition Dostoevsky wrote this: ‘Reality in its entirety is not to be exhausted by what is immediately at hand, for an overwhelming part of this reality is contained in the form of a still latent, unuttered future Word’. Here the devout, if sometimes less than conventional, Russian Orthodox, quite deliberately and consciously uses a capital W, linking it to the Word, the Logos, at the opening of the Prologue to St John’s Gospel. In another place he categorised his own novels as examples of what he called ‘fantastic realism’. Different from the more secular modern concept of ‘magical realism’ in such works as One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, published in 1967. But I think his point was that there is more behind the material world than that just perceived by the physical senses. So I think it is perfectly legitimate, and in the modern age rather courageous and imaginative, especially in a story set in Fountains Abbey, to introduce things that are not normally perceived by the ordinary senses; and that is precisely what the author of Stones has accomplished. It is a fine piece of writing.
I did pause, however, as I wondered if my own academic interest in Church history had had any influence on my decision. But pondering it I do genuinely think that it did not. The obvious quality of the writing, the conception of the story and the skill in its execution speak for themselves. Thus I am more than happy to award first prize to Stones.

Poetry adjudication with Sue Hardy-Dawson

Maggie welcomed Sue Hardy-Dawson and invited her to give her adjudication of the 2019 Poetry Competition. Sue began by bringing members up to date on her own work, about which she had spoken on previous visits. She went on to read five poems from her new collection ‘If I were Other than Myself’ which was due to be published on 27th February 2020. These were ‘Legends of Bears’, ‘Casting Stones’, ‘Dolphin Dreaming’, ‘Found Poem’ and ‘Nightlight’. A discussion of Sue’s work then followed and she talked about her methods, emphasising the need to read poetry if one was to write it. She also said that she writes and writes before deciding what it will become – there is a lot of work between first draft and finished product.

In introducing the adjudication itself, Sue mentioned two general things which she considered worth thinking about:
• Do we need capital letters at the beginning of lines anymore?
• The avoidance of clichés unless they have a specific purpose or reason.

She then went on to give her individual comments on all the entries before announcing the result as follows:
• 3rd place – Kate Swann with ‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’
• 2nd place – Lindsay Trenholme with ‘New Mind Meditation’
• 1st place – Sheila Whitfield with ‘Sea Town by Night’

The winners read their poems as the results were announced and Sue presented Sheila with the trophy.

Artistic Licence 2019

Our adjudicator, Anne Carrick, began by saying that she had enjoyed all the pieces and that one had even taken her back to her misspent youth in Northumberland. She went on to suggest that her credentials to act as an adjudicator rested on her experience as a critical reader. What she was looking for was something that had a striking beginning and an ending that rounded things off. She reminded us that every word must count and that proofreading before submission was essential. The need to consider the target audience, be it academics, newspaper readers or whatever, was also important.

Anne concluded her introductory remarks by saying that she had found a strong streak of feminism in many of the stories. She then went on to give her thoughts on each of the ten entries. Finally she announced the winners in reverse order as follows:
• 3rd place – ‘A Show of Hands’ – Sheila Whitfield
• 2nd place – ‘Dancing Feet’ – Maggie Cobbett
• 1st place – ‘A Picture Telling Many Stories’ – Phil Cook

Anne presented the trophy and this was followed by Phil reading his winning entry. It concerned the pleasure he had got from a print, bought for £5 at a boot sale, showing a Vienna streetscape painted by Herta Czoernig (1886-1970) above a few bars of Beethoven’s Appassionata Piano Sonata.

Maggie then read ‘Dancing Feet’, which explained how one look at a professional ballerina’s feet, scarred by her years en pointe, had killed any childhood notion of following suit. She had gone on to explore other dance genres, though, finishing with a love of salsa.

Sheila, inspired by the Group’s 2019 outing to Littlethorpe Potteries, had begun with the importance of hands to the work of the potter and continued into a reflection on the complexity and dexterity of hands in general and their place in both art and culture. She then read Malcolm Glasby’s entry, ‘A Personal Collection’, which described some of the artists from whom he had purchased original work and also the role of his wife Margaret’s own work in their art collection.

Finally Joe Peters read his entry ‘The Sound of Music’ which described how he came to be interested in and active in the world of folk dance – in particular Scottish, Irish and Dutch – and song, meeting Daphne at Scottish Country Dancing when living in The Hague. Today he finds watching Morris Dance very moving while he and Daphne have a large collection of traditional and folk dance music.

Malcolm and Phil are both retiring from the Group and Maggie paid tribute to the great contribution that both have made over the many years of their membership.

Finally, Maggie thanked Anne Carrick for her very positive and thorough adjudication and presented her with a token of the Group’s appreciation.

Mini-Saga competition 2019

Anne Powell began her adjudication by giving some background to the trophy presented to the Group by her mother. She went on to say that she had enjoyed the eleven entries, which had covered such a wide range of topics – including eco issues, murder and geriatric drug dealing – that it had been difficult to make a judgement.

After presenting her comments on the individual entries Anne announced the results as follows:
• Winner – Susan Perkins with ‘Brief Notes on the First Week of a Very Big Undertaking’
• Runner-up – Christine Summers with ‘Parenthood’
Anne presented Susan with the trophy. The entries were then read in the following order:
• Susan – ‘Brief Notes on the First Week of a Very Big Undertaking’ – a retelling of the Genesis Creation story
• Christine – ‘Parenthood’ – a young woman mourns the loss of a baby whose heart had stopped beating several days earlier
• Caroline – ‘Stop the World I Want to Get Off’ – a man sitting by a canal gets a disapproving look from a passing jogger
• Phil – ‘When is a Good Turn not a Good Turn’ – a spider rescued from a house is eaten by a bird
• Peter H (Read by Sheila in Peter’s absence) – ‘It’s Time to Tell her’ – a man wants to tell a woman that he loves her but when he spots her she is with someone else
• Sheila – ‘You Couldn’t Write it . . . . ‘ – an Oregon novelist who has written on the subject of husband murder eventually becomes the suspect when her own husband is murdered
• Peter P – ‘What the Picture Suggested’ – a story of possible murder inspired by a painting of an empty potting shed seen in a local art exhibition
• Maggie – ‘Vaudeville Stars’ – piano playing Siamese twins discuss a former lover
• Carol – ‘These Days’ – the frustrations of growing old
• Janet – ‘The End of the Line’ – a bee killed in a kitchen fails to fertilise the flowers in a nearby orchard
• Joe – ‘Self-help at St Peters’ – a very elderly stalwart of a local church is discovered to have been involved in growing cannabis

After all eleven entries had been read Sheila invited Anne to share a piece of her own writing. She obliged with the short story ‘Ripples’, inspired by childhood memories of her grandparents’ house in Denby Dale.

Sheila then thanked Anne for her adjudication and presented her with a token of the Group’s appreciation. Members present reinforced the thanks in the usual manner and Anne took her leave as she had a 1½ hour journey to return home.

Adjudication of the Article Competition

Sheila introduced Graham Chalmers, a journalist working for JPI Media as Features Editor for the group of newspapers that includes the Ripon Gazette. She recalled that this was not the first time he had adjudicated for our Group.

Graham began by insisting that he was a journalist rather than a writer. He had come to the profession after reading politics and modern history at university. In his view one didn’t have to be a good writer to be a journalist. He then went on to talk about the process of writing, describing for example how he had developed his own style for music reviews after researching the styles already found in print.

Turning to the competition entries, Graham said that it had been hard to choose the top three – all ten entries were well-written and intelligent. He then proceeded to give his comments on the individual entries. Having done so he announced the winners as follows:
• 3rd – Peter Hicks with 11 Dawson Street
• 2nd – Claire Cox with Home is where You Hang your Hat
• 1st – Malcolm Glasby with No 5 – a House and Home Remembered

Graham then presented the trophy to Malcolm.

Graham had to leave immediately after the break to meet a deadline for his weekly column, but not before Sheila expressed the Group’s thanks and presented him with the usual token of appreciation.

Sheila then read Malcolm’s prizewinning entry, which took the form of a memoir of his childhood home and brought the story on to the present day. Claire then read her second place entry, an account of various houses in England and abroad where she had made her home. In the absence of Peter H, the final reader of the day was Phil with his competition entry What Makes a House a Home? – a reflection on that subject using examples from various stately homes he and his wife had visited.

Poetry Adjudication with Carole Bromley

Sheila introduced Carole Bromley from York, adjudicator of the 2018 Poetry Competition. Carole is a published poet who has won several competitions and been placed in more. An English teacher by background she has also been a Creative Writing tutor at York University’s centre for Lifelong Learning.

Carole began her adjudication by confirming and updating the information that Sheila had given about her in introducing her. She said that she had begun writing poetry while taking students to the Arvon Centre at Lumb Bank. Turning to the adjudication itself she said that her judgement was inevitably subjective and influenced by her personal taste. Although all the entries were of a good standard she had recognised the winner on sight. Whilst being flexible rather than judging by a hard set of rules she was looking for:
• Confidence of tone
• Skilful handling of form
• An awareness of contemporary poetry
• Appropriate use of language and spoken rhythms
• Effective imagery
• Interesting subject matter
• A good title
• A cracking ending
• A clear message economically put
• An absence of clichés, archaisms and word order twisted to suit the rhyming scheme.
She pointed out that modern poets tended not to follow the old convention of beginning each line with a capital letter.

After the general introduction Carole gave her individual comments on each of the entries before announcing the results. These were:
• Commended – ‘Through an Upstairs Window’ by Lindsay Trenholme and ‘The Shift of Time’ by Kate Swann
• Joint third place – ‘Not a Hope’ by Maggie Cobbett and ‘La Manche’ by Daphne Peters
• Second place – ‘The view from the Mat’ by Janet Barclay
• First Place – ‘Safe Keeping’ by Sheila Whitfield

There was time before the refreshment break for all the above six poems to be read, Sheila reading ‘The Shift of Time’ in Kate’s absence. As with most of the readings during the evening the authors present spoke briefly about the inspiration behind their poem.

After the break Carole presented the Poetry Competition trophy to Sheila and The President’s Cup for 2018 to Janet who had been absent when the result of the latter competition had been announced at the Christmas Event.

Adjudication of the 2018 Short Story competition

At Sheila’s invitation, Susan introduced Delphine Ruston, a former English teaching colleague of hers. Delphine’s background includes an interest in photography, a therapeutic counselling qualification and the experience of taking groups to the Arvon Centre at Lumb Bank. Susan felt she was suitable for the adjudicator role because she is interested in words, people and ‘how things seem’.

Delphine began her adjudication by saying that the invitation had come within a few days of her recent retirement. It had proved to be an enjoyable task. Her own writing is focused at present on writing a memoir of her grandmother which she wants to publish as a handmade book. (This has now aroused her interest in bookbinding.) After that she wants to write creatively. In the course of her comments she referred to and read from Philip Pullman’s book ‘Daemon Voices’.

Turning to the competition entries Delphine said that they were very different but all enjoyable. She said that in judging them she had been looking for
• The quality of the idea – was it imaginative? Did it pique interest?
• A short story that lingered – did it have a poetic quality?
• Coherence and craft skills such as leanness and economy in the use of words?
• A voice that was credible and sustained
• A first sentence that plunged straight in the action
• The impact of the ending – was it perhaps satisfying or unnerving?

She went on to suggest some challenges in short story writing, including the following points
• Don’t make the meaning explicit – the story should relate events not interpret them
• ‘Less is more’
• In choosing the subject matter, don’t be frightened of the inconsequential. The subject matter does not have to be weighty.

Delphine then turned to her comments on the individual stories and her reaction to them. Having completed those comments she was invited to announce the result as follows:
• Second – Maggie with ‘Daddy Haircare’
• Joint First – Peter P with ‘“Venus Must Have Heard My Plea”’ and Sheila with ‘Beginnings and Endings’

Peter and Sheila shared the trophy.

After the break the three winning stories were read.

‘“Venus Must Have Heard My Plea”’ is a tale of the semi-retired Roman Gods and Goddesses taking over the Big House in a twenty-first century Yorkshire village as a retirement home and getting involved in the lives of the locals. The title is a quotation from a Sandy Shaw hit song.

‘Beginnings and Endings’ is the story of a woman out walking her dog who discovers a corpse on a railway cutting side. It is written in an experimental format with four segments which can be read in any order.

‘Daddy Haircare’ is a daughter’s tale of bonding with her widower father as he deals with her hair.

When these three stories had been read Sheila and Susan thanked Delphine for her adjudication and presented her with the usual token of the Group’s appreciation.

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