Brantwood itself is amazing. Looking out over Coniston Water, John Ruskin's home (the one where he spent the last part of his life) and the gardens he created are spectacular. He planted all sorts, even a swathe of blue, Himalayan poppies... one of my favourites... and the views were to die for.
|A view from Brantwood|
|Blue poppies in the garden|
We, that is me and the other 3 participants, were housed in The Lodge. It had been newly refurbished last year and was a lovely place to relax. Geraldine (our tutor) was lucky enough to be staying up at the house in what's known as The Eyrie. Our place of work... the old schoolroom... was up there too and a wonderful place to sit and contemplate and write.
|The Lodge in the foreground and Brantwood behind|
|At work in the schoolroom|
And I did write. As did the other 3. We gelled immediately, no matter that there were two more experienced poets (one extremely so) and then us other two. The atmosphere was supportive and kind and above all filled with laughter and friendship. We had a good time, all of us.
Evenings were spent eating, drinking wine, telling stories and reading poetry. It really was a lovely weekend. One of the highlights for me though was totally unexpected.
In one of the bathrooms sat this enormous bath encased in wood. Geraldine had said for us to go and relax and suggested having a bath. Well usually I'm the kind of person who sits in a very small amount of water and I'm in and out. I like the water hot and it never stays hot enough for me to soak in, but it looked so inviting. It took me about 3 minutes to work out how the plug system worked, and after that a wait while it filled up and then in.
It was probably the longest bath I've ever had. Just the best. When I got out, John, one of the experienced poets asked me how it was and when I told him, he told me it was actually John Ruskin's bath as he rushed off to experience it for himself. We glowed that evening after our post Ruskin bathing!
John, who is such a serious poet that he has many pamphlets and books and collections to his name, and I got talking. He was saying about his anxieties and in a glib moment I said, 'Well you should buy my book.' He insisted we swapped. I think I've got the better end of this deal as he gave me a great poetry pamphlet he wrote about the cinema. Anyway, the next evening we were talking about self-publishing and I admitted that mine was really as Mr Bassman, a friend, had published the second edition for me and given me an ISDN number. Then yesterday morning as I got to the schoolroom, Geraldine, our tutor, said to me, 'Can we swap pamphlets?' I was a bit nonplussed. 'I don't have a pamphlet' I replied. 'You know the one you're giving John,' she said. When I told her it was a stress management book she insisted on swapping anyway!
I was sad to leave. I felt I wrote some ok poems, though all need work. I'm so pleased I went and I would definitely go back and experience another weekend there.
|The view from Ruskin's bedroom tower over Coniston|