I’ve always wanted to do an Arvon writing course but every time I looked at their website, the courses were often already full. Attendees go back again and again which says it all, doesn’t it?
You can go to a taught course or a retreat – tutored or untutored - at one of four centres in the UK: Yorkshire, Shropshire, Devon and Inverness. In the interest of research I have plans to go to each one now, oh yes I do. (If you can’t afford a course you can apply for assistance. This isn’t something they say and then don’t follow through on; they absolutely do put their money where their mouths are –you can find out how at their website.)
This year I got my act together and booked a course, Writing Mainstream, at Moniack Mhor, near Inverness in Scotland. I was almost more excited by the sleeper train I’d booked than the course. In my head I appeared in a tailored, post war suit talking in the clipped English tones of the 1950s. Pigments faded into black and white… a dark handsome stranger emerged to help me with something I’d got in my eye. Ahhh, shades of Brief Encounter… but no, it wasn’t quite like that.
The sleeper cabin was wee, as I’d imagined they’d say in Scotland and sadly there was no sign anywhere of a stranger. A strapping lass going home to Inverness had booked the top bunk. I woke around thirty-four times in the night at the strange swaying motion and morning tea appeared in a paper cup and not bone china stamped with the Orient Express; hmmm, I was getting my media metaphors mixed… But it was all compensated for by the remote and hilly landscape I saw when I nipped out of the cabin first thing; it couldn't have been more different from Bangkok.
I couldn’t arrive at Moniack Mhor until the afternoon so I dumped my bags at left luggage and after a quick look at the town I went around the corner to spend the day at Inverness library. I left around 4pm to get a taxi from the station. I gave him the address.
‘Are you going to the writers’ place?’
He went off to check with his colleague how to find it and so began our wild goose chase. Some miles outside Inverness, we went up lanes, through tracks and tiny roads with passing points. The taxi man stopped and made ‘phone calls to the centre while I admired the views of vast open countryside and then we’d set off again following our new instructions. A man with a dog set us on the right route eventually but we drove mile after mile where it should only have been a few. A car coming in the opposite direction slowed, stopping level with our window and my hopes soared for a local who’d spotted us driving in circles.
‘Excuse me,’ the woman said, ‘I wonder if you can help me. My sat nav isn’t finding my destination. I’m trying to find Moniack Mhor…’
This was the first sighting of one of my writing peers; that afternoon and evening the other thirteen assembled…
To be continued.