An eventful year which justifies a report! I’ll start with the most significant event, a 5 day residential professional writing course in an old house in West Yorkshire called Lumb Bank which was once the home of Ted Hughes, the poet.
Having come across it on the Arvon website, I mentioned that I’d like to go on it at a meeting of assorted artists and that I’d need someone to help and look after me, never dreaming anyone would offer! But Kelza Pilkington offered to help and support and Mark Storor offered to drive so that which seemed very unlikely was suddenly and alarmingly possible. Connections came together; Kelza learnt how to look after me, never having done such a thing before (except for her pet rats!) and Mark soon mastered my car controls; Marie, my resident carer, packed everything I needed before going on holiday herself, and we were off, one morning 23rd September.
Lumb Bank stands on a shelf cut into a 45 degree hillside so getting down the narrow lane to it was alarming. I was glad my car had a stainless steel bottom as it ‘grounded’ with a crash on every hump set across the lane to divert the rainfall into the ditch. The view and surroundings were worth it! Kelza and I were shown to our room in The Log Shed where there was just space for our stuff and my hoist.
Being of assorted antiquity and built in stone most of the main buildings were inaccessible to me but everything was rearranged to mostly take place in the dining room with its one huge old table and just a few yards, and a breath of fresh air, from our Shed.
There were sixteen students and two tutors and domestic arrangements were informal, each of us, apart from Kelza and me, being allocated times to cook and wash up and we each created our own breakfast from the supplies in the kitchen. Kelza learnt how to poach an egg for mine!
Each student had a half hour one-to-one with each tutor to discuss their writing and hopes and each day there were two tutorials, one with writing exercises and the other discussing aspects of publishing etc. The topic for the week was Writing Non-fiction and during an introductory session fascinating stories were outlined around the table. I mostly wanted confirmation that my writing was of professional quality (it is) and I mentioned my long and varied life. Adding in the private discussions and writing amongst ourselves, it was a busy few days.
By the end, I found myself committed to spending the next few years writing my autobiography; a daunting and challenging task, and not only because of its size. It will end with me starting to write my autobiography like a snake swallowing its tail! No, there are much more important subjects to explore. You can follow my slow progress here https://www.buymeacoffee.com/jonathanslife – there’s no need to buy anything.
Checking last year’s letter to see where I was up to, there have been other developments. I mentioned that I had a speech synthesiser, Proloquo4text, which I used to give a presentation. The same company sells a very adaptable predictive keyboard, Keeble. It is really good and saves much time. Both of those ‘apps’ run on my iPad and using a cross-system connection, VNC, I can write on my large Windows PC with the Keeble on my iPad so, WOW, the hundreds of thousands of words needed for the autobiography are within reach. It will have many illustrations as well, of course. Start saving!
The other big change is that I have put a large amount of material on-line here!
Otherwise most things are continuing smoothly. My tenants produced a baby last year, a sister for Esme, and she is now toddling. The water-lily in my tiny pond produced four flowers in its second year. (no comparison intended!) My health remains good apart from lingering colitis. Both my sisters and their families remain in good shape. The arrangement with Marie and Chris sharing my bungalow continues well enough and Chris’s health is noticeably improved. They both take large amounts of medication to keep going which is a background worry to me.
Those readers who remember my friend Sue will be saddened to learn that she is still stuck in the unsuitable flat with little means of communication. The right person and the right Care Plan could transform her life and I will gladly advise on the subject.
So I find myself ready to start the new year with increased confidence (and maybe foolishness) and a fresh purpose. We will see what comes of these developments.