Tag Archives: writing retreats

On Retreat

Since I spent last week on retreat in the West of Ireland with other members of my Writers’ Group you may be here expecting my writing to have reached new heights of eloquence, wit and beauty. Those of you who have known me for longer, however, will be expecting the same sort of stuff that I always produce.

We didn’t write a lot.

In our defence we had expected to be trapped in our cottage for the week, staring out at driving rain while trying to think of something that rhymes with “saturated”. We had not expected that Ireland would get its first summer since 2005, nor that the West, normally the wettest part of the country, would have the heatiest of the heat wave.

So we had swimming to do, ice-creams to eat, salads to prepare, sunscreen to apply (I used an entire bottle in six days) and lolling about complaining about the heat to be getting on with before we could get down to actual work.

We did try. All of us wrote something. We also tried painting, to see if that would stimulate creativity (since I paint like a four-year-old my attempt will not be featuring here, even though it might well have been the funniest thing ever to appear on the blog).

The cottage was in the grounds of the Park Lodge Hotel, just outside Spiddal, which is run by the nicest and kindest family that you have ever met in your life. We would wake to little baskets of croissants or banana bread left on our kitchen window sill. When thanking them for their wonderful hospitality I promised I would mention them here, and am delighted to do so.

They would refer to us to the other guests as “the writers”, filling us with pride. We didn’t quite gate-crash a wedding one night, but did sit drinking in the beer garden where the wedding guests came out to smoke, so ended up chatting merrily away to them.

And one evening the family in the neighbouring cottage, walking home at midnight past the hotel’s childrens’ playground, did pass us playing on the swings.

So we were vain, we were eccentric and at times we acted like kids.

We may not have written much, but as least we behaved like writers.

Gone West

This is Day 2, and this is sentence number one. This means I will have three whole sentences written by Sunday.

Perhaps the above needs some explanation. Inspired by the number of writers throughout the ages who have escaped to remote cottages to finish their great novel, our Writers Group decided to book a cottage together for a week in the hope that we might start ours. So four of us have come to the lovely village of Spiddal on the west coast of the country and I am writing this outdoors, in frighteningly garish shorts and a chilly breeze.

There are a couple of confessions I need to make. Our cottage is not deep in a forest surrounded by pine trees and bears. We are in one of seven in the grounds of a hotel, just two miles from the town, so we will not have to set traps to catch possum in order to eat. And the absolute silence of Thoreau’s retreat in Walden is not quite matched here, where I can hear traffic and where the cottage next door have their radio on.

The four of us know each other simply from the Writers Group. We have always got on very well there, where we write, encourage each others’ work and then chat in the coffee shop afterwards. We have not lived together, where we can have rows over who ate the last Jaffa Cake and who left the toilet seat up. So the cottage may end up as friendly as the house on Walton’s Mountain, with cheery goodnights emerging from every room, or may end up like the last twenty minutes of the Shining.

We plan to swim, to go for walks, to listen to traditional Irish music in small dark pubs. We also plan to write. Honestly.

Yesterday was a settling-in day, but today, as you can see, we’re giving it a go.

(PS. I have just noticed that WordPress suggests “toilet seat” as one of its Recommended Tags. Who am I to argue with the masters).