Before anything else, I was shocked 😉 to discover that not everyone has seen my video introducing Social Anxiety Revealed. If you’re one of those unfortunate people, here’s the link you need to sort it: [See it, say it, sorted. Don’t mind me; I’m just learning the lingo. See below.]

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“It’s been an awfully long time since you last wrote a blog post,” said everyone.

“I know,” I replied, “and I’m awfully sorry, but life got in the way again.”

“You haven’t been travelling again, have you?” said everyone.

“Actually, I have.” I gave a sheepish grin. “I’ve literally spent like the last six weeks in various like places in the UK.”

“Picked up the lingo, too,” said everyone.

“Just trying to blend in. I didn’t like it when two people I met in Cardiff thought I sounded foreign. I mean… well… if I don’t sound British, then what do I sound?”

Making Welsh Cakes

Making Welsh cakes in Cardiff market

“Weird?” suggested everyone.

“Yeah, but apart from that.”

“What have you been up to?” said everyone, clumsily changing the subject.

“I went geocaching around Wittenham Clump. I did belly dancing and zumba. I walked in Devon, Cambridge, the Lake District, Chess Valley and Richmond. I travelled in cars, buses, trains, planes, a bicycle and a boat.

Cycling in Devon

“I got detrained in Newark. I know I did, because the guard said so, so I don’t care about that red squiggly line that’s appeared below the word. (And no, I don’t want to change it to detained, retained or restrained, but if you annoy me any more, Spelling Checker, you may have to restrain me to prevent me from getting detained.)

“I spent five days at an Arvon retreat and have some great ideas about how to complete one of my works in progress.

Totleigh Barton

“I ate in various restaurants, including Mexican, Italian and Indian. I ate sandwiches a little too often. I ate food on planes that I didn’t particularly like. I enjoyed home cooking that I didn’t have to prepare. The most delicious thing I ate was cheesecake in a Turkish café in Chesham.

“I visited art museums and an old house. I saw a musical, two plays and a film.

“I read books, including one that I loved: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I also read from one out loud, while taking part in a book festival.

Reading

Reading from Neither Here Nor There

“I had two dogs and a cat on my lap… at different times. But most of all, I met and talked to lots of people and had a great time doing it. I hope they enjoyed my company, too.”

Swansea

“Sounds wonderful,” said everyone.

“It was!”

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“In my next post, I’ll be eating the top layer,” I wrote at the end of my last post. But, well you can’t really eat a sandwich like that. Or rather, you can but who would? So I’m going to bite into that delicious egg mayonnaise, wholewheat sandwich, even though this post is about the top layer.

The Arvon writing course. A five-day residential course in an old house in the heart of Devon called Totleigh Barton. The topic was: Fiction and Experience. Wow! Where do I start?

I met some lovely people. First of all, there was the couple who run the centre, Claire Berliner and Oliver Meek, and their assistant, Eliza Squire. Then the two tutors, Jean McNeil and Ben Faccini, and the guest tutor, Anjali Joseph. And also the other fourteen students on the course.

In the mornings, the tutors spoke about various topics and set us exercises, some of the results of which we read out loud.  In the afternoons, we did our homework – reading and writing, had tutorials – one each with each tutor, and made dinner when it was our turn. In the evenings, there were more sessions.

The spontaneity required for the exercises wasn’t always forthcoming from my section of the long oak table. But at other times it helped me to learn things about myself that I hadn’t thought about before. The socialising was also rather an effort, but I did my best, outside in warm sunshine on the grass, far away from noise.

Totleigh Barton from afar

Totleigh Barton from afar

I also learned a lot about writing, about some of the things writers have to think about, decisions they need to make.

Everyone involved put a lot of effort into the course and made it a wonderful experience. If that’s what all Arvon courses are like, I heartily recommend going on one – or many.

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I remained in Devon for Part 3 of the Social Sandwich, coming soon.

P.S. Today, on this special birthday, is when life begins, I’ve decided. Up to now, it was all practice.