Books Holidays

The Social Sandwich, Part 2


“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.


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.