Caerleon for me has always been the green mounded amphitheatre under which are the original stones left by the Romans. I lived just down the road in Newport and hardly ever went there- apart from one or two visits in about twenty years. Until today.
I arrived for the last Writers’ Holiday to take place on the campus of Caerleon College. They are moving to Fishguard next year after twenty odd years here.
Twenty seems to be cropping up a lot. Is it the magic number?
We wandered around Caerleon, peered over the barricade at the Amphitheatre- still green and mound looking, marvelled at the the wondrous wooden carvings in the Roman Gate area, stood and pondered the wall at Mynd and thought of the brave Chartist rioters- Newport was very proud of its Chartist heritage- the bullet holes preserved in the Westgate hotel walls, the square named for John Frost, a relation of my old English teacher. Caerleon has the opposite- a wall built to defend the town against the Chartists. And yet it has the sleepy Georgian look of a pretty town taking care of itself along the muddy banks of the fast flowing River Usk.
I have not been on a writers’ holiday before, so I didn’t know what to expect;
being welcomed by a kiss on the cheek was not it.
By the time I had sat down after our walk round part of Caerleon, I had received advice on writing that is even now inscribed in my notebook and will be actioned upon when I get home.
The evening kicked off with a free glass of wine or juice depending on your preference- I must admit, readers, that I drank wine. I know, can you ever forgive me? What can I say, I was carried away by the occasion? I received my comeuppance later on- truly.
We met some pleasant and friendly people at our table and then had dinner together. Just through chatting another link was made. Goodness, it’s great this networking thing, especially when they’re so nice. Four of us stayed together for the talk – we thought we’d get ahead of the game and they’d be in the room by the bar and bagged a table. Those in the know ( that’s anyone who’d been before) found the secret door and nipped in ahead of us. So we tipped out chairs forward, thinking we had sussed out the layout of the room and the person would be running the quiz from the other end of the space.
How wrong were we?
The talk for the evening was entitled 99% Perspiration and delivered by the poet James Nash. Read his collections, buy his books, he is good. He led us from the romantic, personal, intimate and sad to the funny and political. His sonnets are wonderful and hit a space in your chest you didn’t think was working any longer.
Look away now when I say the wine took effect.
By the time I got back to our table that we had previously sourced as the best possible , it was clear that we were now right next to the microphone, but the other were all taken. A steep learning curve.
The quiz was a literary one- did you expect anything else amongst such hallowed members?
Now if it had been a film quiz perhaps we would have done better, but I have to say our numbers were slightly down on the winning table. We came fourth! An achievement to be proud of. And so to bed.
What will tomorrow bring? Maybe a drier day or thunder, it’s in the lap of the gods, but hopefully the muses will sing for us.