Monday, 28 June 2010

French House Party

While England were proving they're not a world class football team, I was wending my way along the Canal du Midi to work, every morning, peddling as elegantly as I could in the beautiful shade until I turned off the canal for the last five minutes towards Domaine St Raymond, HQ of The French House Party. Then I'd be in hard hitting sunshine, slightly delirious before facing the residents, my students, and our day of reading, writing and feasting ...

We had eight people this year - a mixed bunch as usual - ranging from 36 years old to 77. And naturally, considering the hugely diverse characters, they took a day to settle into their group dynamics and finding that they could get along just fine and dandily. I'm sure the fantastic food and local wines helped even the hardened independent to mellow into idle chat at the pool side.

And of course the writing workshop. Our beautiful classroom (yes, that's it to the left) meant we had the space to talk, stare into space, think, imagine and write. It's a beginners course, and I try to accomodate whatever people what to write, short stories, novels and memoirs - covering characterisation, creating atmosphere and plotting. Which generally works well, and opens people up to different ways into writing.

This was the third year I'd been there and the third year nobody was interested in poetry. And the third year I spent one morning bringing poetry to the table and while not asking them to write poems, at least asking them to read them and to consider what makes for the strength of language. By the end of the week, I had at least three converts to poetry writing and two more who wanted me to reccommend a good anthology. Ahh, the satisfaction.

And so, despite the 38' heat that meant I didn't get any of my work done in the afternoons (as usual I'd taken a bunch of paperwork, notes and books to work through), it was a productive week, meeting and getting to know people I'd never normally cross paths with, recalling schoolgirl French and eating the most fabulously ripe tomatoes.

This is what one of the participants made of it last year


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