Lots of catching up to do, I know....I will get there, I promise, so please bear with me....x I've just returned from the most amazing week (the last of my travels for a few months) that will remain with me forever and may even change my life!
I spent 5 days in deepest, most rural Devon at a pre-Domesday manor house set amidst emerald farmland with no noise but the gentle lowing of cows and the unmistakeable laughter of like minded people enjoying each other's company.
Totleigh Barton is one of the writing houses owned by The Arvon Foundation which is a charitable organisation that runs residential courses to encourage and facilitate writers of every type and background. I took the food writing course....I felt that I needed a bit of direction where my bakery cookbook was concerned (actually I wanted to find out whether I should continue with it at all.)
Part of the reason that I signed up for this particular course was the calibre of the tutors....who just happened to be two of my most admired chefs and writers : Yotam Ottolenghi & Peter Gordon as well as a midweek special guest: Lulu Grimes, the food editor of Olive & BBC Good Food magazines.
The format is very simple: a beautiful setting, clean, comfortable but basic bedrooms
most with shared bathrooms, wonderful ancient kitchen stuffed with every fresh food for do-it-yourself breakfasts, lunches of salads, dips & breads ranged on the scrubbed wooden table at 1pm, evening meals cooked in turn for the whole group by course members in friendly teams of 4...and, most importantly, tuition & discussion in the Grade 1 listed barn morning and afternoon followed by writing, reading, writing and more writing! I can't believe how much work I completed (especially as I made so many new friends and seemed to spend a lot of time talking and laughing with them!)
There are places to write dotted everywhere within the house and grounds.....the desk in your room, windowseats (wide & cool), comfy sofas in the barn, summer houses & deckchairs in the garden...inspiration and quiet calm was everywhere. The small group of 18 - together with wonderful course directors, our hosts, Oliver & Claire - quickly became close. Plenty of strong personalities, but no one overpowering to 'hijack' the group.
There was no TV, music or cellphone coverage to break the dreamlike state....except most mornings when several of us would take the slanting, sloping walk up the long private driveway to find some phone signal and connect with the outside world...
worth it for the views and exercise alone....although I found that I actually lost weight during the week - an added benefit of 3 good nutritional meals a day with no in between eating and plenty of brainwork.
I learnt so much on the week....mainly from the wonderful teachers, but also from my fellow attendees, some of whom I hope and believe will remain friends for a long time. There's something really special about spending time with people who love food and words as much as I do. It's been quite hard to come back down to earth, wonderful as it was to see Paul & Alice arriving in the driveway on Saturday morning. I'd so recommend an Arvon or similar course to anyone who loves to write. I feel refreshed, encouraged, inspired by my week. I hope to carry those feelings through and into my writing. One thing's now certain - there WILL be a book. I know now that I have the tools and knowledge to succeed....the rest is really up to me!
Happy Monday - it's good to be back xo