For a short time while I was growing up my Dad was in charge of the Lost Property Office at Victoria Station. This meant that he was occasionally part of the shift system manning the front desk. He would bring home amusing tales of what people had left on trains: there was a leg of lamb in a shopping bag more than once, an unplucked fowl tied by the legs with a label attached with someone's name written on it was occasionally abandoned and once a hare (fur still on) similarly labelled. There were umbrellas galore of course. I was more interested in a magician’s cloak. It was black on one side, my Dad described it in detail. He said that would render its wearer almost invisible, then went on to say that the other side was a luminous blue with shiny stars.
Every three months items that had not been reclaimed by their rightful owners were sent to public auction (edible leavings were put in a fridge and kept for a week before being disposed of). Items that received no bids at auction were first of all put in a sale where railway employees and their families had the option of buying the things that the travelling public had abandoned. The proceeds from the sale were given to charity. Items left over from the sale were then sent to charity shops to be sold. I wanted the magic cloak my father had described so very much that I kept my fingers crossed as much as I could over the days preceding the next sale, subscribing to a theory I invented that the magic of crossed fingers would reach the shadowy world of the magician’s cloak! Eager anticipation for my mother’s return from the sale had me hopping from one foot to the other as she opened the front door. When she told me that the cloak had not been in the sale after all I was devastated. Her sole purchase, to my disgust, was a brand new dustpan and brush!
My disappointment had not gone unnoticed by my kind mother: that Christmas the first present I opened was a majestic magician’s cloak which she had made. It had all the features described by my father. It reached the ground of my 10 year old self but I continued to wear it over black trousers right through my teenage years when I practised my magic acts for family and friends. I read about magic tricks enthusiastically and joined the Junior Magician’s Circle, eventually graduating to full membership of the adult Magician’s Circle. Now, all these years later, I still practise the art and am much in demand. I followed my father into a career on the railways and as I work shifts I am able to fit my one-man shows into children’s party times. I am often asked to perform at grown-up parties too. Occasionally I am invited to attend séances because of a mistaken idea that I have connections ‘on the other side’ but those invitations I always decline. I stick strictly to the rules of the Magic Circle. While I am not yet in the Darren Brown class, I am proud of my expertise which all began because a magician left his cloak on a train: Magical!
2019 has been a rather turbulent year for the Writers' Circle. One treasured member, Derek Knight, was bereaved when his wife, Audrey, passed away and was not in the best of health himself. Recently, we heard the sad news that Derek had died; he will be much missed by the community. He was a leading light of the Hayling Lions, the Hayling Choir and the bell ringers. He worked tirelessly for charity, after a successful career...his death an end to a memorable chapter.
On a happier note, we have acquired two new members who are extremely promising writers, although without a great deal of experience in the art.
I have also written some reviews for an online jazz magazine, which were published. This was due to the stimulus provided by being a member of a writing group.
It is vital for groups to renew and refresh themselves as much as possible and the U3A writers have continually realised their hopes and dreams through the medium of fiction.
We currently meet in different venues, all in members' homes, but without a permanent base. This situation may change in 2020.
To sum up this year, we have experienced loss and renewal but we continue to derive fellowship and inspiration from meeting each month and sharing our thoughts.
Each month the writers look forward to a very entertaining morning, listening to a reading of the creative writings of their fellow authors. We do also chat and drink coffee, of course, but our main business is to share our writing and hopefully, give and receive a little constructive criticism. Our July meeting took place in the Kench, due to the generosity of one of the members who also provided us with lunch on that occasion!
At present we are six, due to ill health and bereavement affecting two of the members, but we have a new prospective member and are happy to welcome anyone else who feels that this is the group for them.
(Don’t miss Maggi’s short story at the end of this newsletter ! -Ed)
This is an article published in the Christmas 2018 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter….
The Writers' Circle has undergone a few changes recently. We have lost two members, but have gained one, which means that we still have one vacancy... so if you would like to explore your imagination and share your writing with like-minded people we would be delighted to welcome you to the group.
For the Christmas newsletter I have added an example of the highly colourful writing of Gill Heather which you can read under the And Finally item on the main newsletter page (click here)…….enjoy!
The year began well with a full complement of writers in the group. We can accommodate a maximum of eight authors due to limited space at our host's house and we had been short of two members for some time.
We now are forging ahead, sharing our writings and our opinions and thinking about new projects. At the end of November there is a Portsmouth Writers' Hub 'Dragon's Den’ event in which budding authors will be invited to pitch their novels in the making. Literary agents and editors will be in attendance and will give job offers on the day. One of our members will be taking up the invitation, so we wish her well and think she is very brave!
For our October meeting, I had invited a published author to come to talk to us. She had managed to change direction from writing non-fiction to writing novels and has been very successful. Her talk was fascinating and she was keen to hear what we were doing and listen to some our work. She recommended various digital 'tools' to help writers organise their work - one she was particularly in favour of was a programme called 'Scrivener' and she also directed us to a website called 'Literature and Latte'. We were all inspired to think more about publication.
At the moment we have two names on our waiting list but unfortunately no vacancies. I shall advertise on the website if there should be a vacancy in the future.