Endeavours of a would-be tour guide

Oxford lays claim to many literary connections. These include the fantasies spun by Lewis Carroll, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and Philip Pullman in their various novels, as well as the gritty realities of Colin Dexter’s eponymous detective.

There are many walking tours catering for fans of these literary greats.

Just add snow…

It is said that C.S. Lewis found his inspiration for Narnia at this spot. Note the lion’s head carving, the wooden door, the faun and the lamppost. Now add a sprinkling of snow and you have a land where it’s always winter.

By far the most popular tour is Harry Potter, judging by the large numbers of excited children I’ve seen today.

However the young wizard’s link to the city does not come directly from JK Rowling’s books, but it is because the architecture of the various colleges is ideally suited to recreate Hogwart’s that so many scenes were filmed here in Oxford. For example, the School of Divinity was used as the Infirmary.

View from Corpus Christi

And finally, an admission.

I have never watched an episode of Morse, or read any of Colin Dexter’s books.

I’m endeavouring to put that right!

Direction of travel

Currently at point ‘D’, 4th port of call

I left Swanwick on Friday after a wonderful week in the company of friends old and new.

But I’ve not returned home yet. I’m currently on a tour round Britain.

Meeting new ‘family member’ Roo

After Swanwick I spent the weekend visiting various family members in the south-east. Living so far north, and with everyone’s busy lives, the opportunities for us to meet are few and so are all the more precious when they happen.

Today I have arrived in Oxford to spend three ‘me’ days amongst the dreaming spires. I’ve not been before so I’m looking forward to exploring the city and the colleges.


There have been so many courses and workshops available at Swanwick this week it was impossible to attend all that I would have liked. Some hard decisions had to be made. However, I have no regrets about my choices.

Steve Hartley’s Specialist Course on ‘Character Psychology’ was fascinating and I have pages of notes to re-read and unpick.

Jonathan Higgs’ course ‘Acting for Writers’ has equally left me with pages to peruse, but the added value came in the practical and mental exercises. By techniques such as lying on the floor and marching around the hall, we delved into the psycho-physical relationship between the writer and our created characters. A fascinating experience and one I know will prove valuable.

There were other choices to be made this week. Many involved cake and Prosecco.

Again, I have no regrets.

Being Elsie

Photograph by Jennifer C Wilson

I said this would be the year I would go brave at Swanwick. And so I have. I’ve done Reception duties, Ambassador, Raffle and Book Room. I’ve performed in the Poetry Open Mic and Prose Open Mic.

Tonight I took part in Page to Stage.

I played the part of Elsie in a short comedy play ‘Anyone for Dominoes’ written by talented Yorkshire writer Susanna Lewis, directed by the fabulous Penelope Maclachlan.

And I had so much fun!

A Perfect Swanwick Day

The sun always shines at Swanwick.

Also, National Prosecco Day always happens when we’re at Swanwick.

But don’t get the wrong impression. When we’re not outside chatting in the sunshine, or inside drinking in the bar, we do get down to some writing, even if it’s just making up outrageous answers to the Chairman’s Challenge Quiz.

Did you know HG Wells wrote ‘The Tardis’, Thomas Hardy ‘The Mayor of Castersugar’ and Enid Blyton ‘Five go Rancid in a Caravan’?

The evening ended in fine form with Buskers’ Night, always a highlight!

All in all, it has been yet another perfect Swanwick day.

(Photos by Jennifer C Wilson and Penny Blackburn)


When I reach the letter Z on my blog postings, I usually take it as a cue to pause and consider where I’m up to.

Well, I can report it’s been another busy day here on Planet Swanwick.

I’m really enjoying Steve Hartley’s specialist course on Character Psychology, part 2 of which was today. “Bad choices make good stories. Which means that terrible choices can make terrific stories.”

Photo by Julia Hartnett

This afternoon I listened to the rest of the poetry open mic (the overflow from last night) and this evening I was one of the readers at the prose open mic.

Boy, there are some really talented writers here!

Oh, I also wore flowers in my hair, in keeping with the flower power theme of this evening’s social and disco.

Xtra-curricular Activities

“Think again, Dear”

Three years ago when I first came to Swanwick Summer School I kept a low profile. Last year I berated myself for not taking an active part in some of the evening events. I commented that my Swanwick School Report would surely read, “Could do better”.

And so this year I determined to be bold and become more involved.

“His and Hers”

Yesterday I helped with reception and checking in duties. This morning I sold raffle tickets.

And tonight? Tonight I read at the Poetry Open Mic event. Go me!

(Special thanks to Les Baynton for helping me perform my poem “His and Hers”, and to Jen Wilson for the photographs.)

Yes I can! (But no, I won’t.)

I’ve returned to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. This is my third time here in this creative cauldron, this year alongside 292 other writers.

It is wonderful to be back, to connect with special friends made during the previous years, and to have the opportunity to meet new friends.

But 300 attendees is a lot of people.

And with so much scheduled to happen throughout the week I’m not just spoilt for choice, I’m actually overwhelmed by possibilities. Specialist courses, short courses, workshops, evening speakers, morning meditations, afternoon wind-downs, open mic – poetry and prose, quizzes, discos, tea dances. The programme is bursting with options.

There is so much I want to do.

But I recognise that to fill my every waking moment would be a mistake. The very creativity that is fed and nurtured by being in this special environment could so easily be injured by over indulgence.

And so, as difficult as it is to say ‘no’, I will take a few steps back and try to pace myself.

Where next?

I do love train travel. My next journey will take me north to Scotland. Along the way there is some stunning scenery. The first train, to Edinburgh, follows the east coast up past Alnmouth and Holy Island. The second train takes me up to Stirling and Perth before crossing the Cairngorms on its way to Inverness.

Yes, I will have reading and writing materials with me but I suspect not much may get read or written while I’m distracted by the views.

I’m going to visit Helen and Mike Walters at Solus Or, their lovely writing retreat. Once there I intend to do a lot of writing. (Although I fear I may again be distracted by the beautiful view from the house across the Cromarty Firth towards Ben Wyvis!)

Best not think of it as distraction – perhaps I’ll call it ‘inspirational pondering’ instead.


library deskNever volunteer for anything, they say! (‘They’ obviously doesn’t refer to the folks behind Volunteers’ Week which runs from 1-7 June.)

I have ignored all such negative advice and help at my local community-run library in Jesmond.

As well as putting in a few hours each month stamping books at the front desk, or behind the scenes tidying shelves, I also write a regular blog post  for them.

volunteer (2)I’m always interested in any news or events or facts connected with libraries or books. Anything that will pique interest enough to make readers say, “I like that, I’m going to visit the library”.

If you come across any such news, or have any favourite library or book-related blogs I can follow for inspiration, please let me know.