Thursday, 8 January 2009

Writer's Retreat - Joan Lennon

My house is gradually emptying, and come next Sep- tember it will even be empty of me! My best Christmas present this year was a letter (on very posh creamy paper with an elegant maroon band round the edges) telling me I'd been awarded a four week Fellowship at Hawthornden Castle ... Huzzah just isn't a big enough word!

As I have said elsewhere, Scotland is up to its eyeballs in fine old houses, but the one in the photo (which I got off the internet - thanks to Dave Henniker) has been the focus of impossible desire for me for quite some years now. Hawthornden Castle sits above the River Esk, just south of Edinburgh and is the home of the Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers - 5 writers get to come FOR A WHOLE MONTH of peace and quiet and somebody else doing the cooking, with nothing to do but WRITE! If you get accepted they call you a Hawthornden Fellow - as in, I guess, Jolly Good - I've been trying to get my children to call me that, without success.

Till now, I've never seriously considered applying for one of the fellowships - who can get away from home for an entire month?! - though it didn't stop me fantasizing about how great it would be. BUT since I will soon be living in a son-free house (which would probably be more accurately desribed as a son-empty house - much dread about that) and I am on my last year of piano teaching ... I did apply. And they said yes. Huzzah indeed!

Reactions from people I've told has fallen into two camps - horror, and envy. The "I'd go crazy - will they let you out?" camp and the "Can I come with you, please, please, please?" camp are pretty equally divided. Oh, and occasionally people say, "But what about your husband?" (To those kind folk I reply, "Don't worry, he'll spend the time staying up late, eating curry and reliving happy bachelor days!")

So next September there I will be - living the fantasy, writing my tiny socks off, with a foolish grin stuck to my face for 30 days. Actually, the grin's there already.

Jolly good.


Charlie Butler said...

Ooh, is that where William Drummond of Hawthornden lived? The one Ben Jonson talked to so unbuttonedly? If so, I guess Jonson was the first writer to go there on retreat - which puts you in prestigious company.

Put me in the envy camp, definitely!

Anne Rooney said...

Sounds fantastic! Congratulations!!! I'm sure you will have an amazing time, and very well deserved. I know what you mean about dread - my oldest is off to uni in Sept as well. It will be so quiet... even with the youngest still here. This is a brilliant way to make the transition :-)

Lucy Coats said...

I'm in the 'pleasepleaseplease can I come too' camp! Well done, Joan. Richly deserved. The son is off in Jan to foreign parts to broaden his horizons (and work in bars to fund the broadening). Luckily the daughter is still at home, so no empty nest quite yet.

Linda Strachan said...

Congratulations Joan, may it inspire you, sounds like heaven! I am definitely in the envy camp,too.

Don't get too hung up on the empty nest, in my experience they keep coming back, even when you are quite used to them being away, and then despite how delighted you were to know they were coming back- you discover that you quite enjoyed having your house to yourself and are secretly delighted when they go off again!

John Dougherty said...

Add another one to the roll-call of envy! Sounds lovely. I shall have to be content with imagining turrets on my shed.

Here's hoping that the other Fellows are also Jolly Good, and that the fireside chats in the evening provide a particularly rich and pleasing icing for this delicious-sounding cake. Well done, and jolly good for you!

Nick Green said...

Hope you have a wonderful time! Myself, I'm not actually in the envy camp (peace and tranquillity stop my writing dead in its tracks - I need upheaval!). But I would have liked to be there just to pretend to write for a month.

Lucy Diamond said...

Oooh... I am envious too. How wonderful!