Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Opening a New Window

this image has become my consolation after a traumatic two months

For someone who was blogging sometimes twice a week, it begs the question as to why I hardly even read the posts of other bloggers at present, let alone write anything myself. There has been a reason, which though not a good excuse, has so sapped my energy and dulled my brain, that I have thought of little else but surviving.

It began the day we returned from the Malvern Spring Gardening Show (Tuesday 12th May), with an article to prepare and submit and 700 photos for my husband to process. I opened my emails to find that the magazine for which I was writing the Malvern Review (a publication for which I had worked for ten years) was to cease publication immediately. No warning. I was told I would be paid if I still wrote and submitted the article which was reassuring, but in no way could it compensate for the fact I had promised to write about some of the garden designers and new companies who featured at the Show. I felt I was letting down such lovely people, which was far worse for me than the loss of work. I know I am not alone in the work turmoil, but it does not lessen the shock and pain.

That was ten weeks ago, and although I have posted the occasional blog to keep my spirits up, most of my time has been spent updating my CV, writing promotional literature and letters and trying to canvas new work. It has been non-stop, without compromising other work already in hand. We seem to have pulled through and are enjoying working with new editors and new genres, though initially I was outside my normal comfort zone. One such was last week when we travelled to Shropshire to cover 'A Foody Retreat in the Shropshire Hills', to be published in due course. I was at last able to relax and for once actually feel as if I was on holiday, even though we were working.

I think the place I loved most was the magical Stokesay Castle and for a significant discovery I made whilst we were there.

peering through an unglazed window slit at the roofline below

That night, I wrote in my travel diary: "I stand high on the roof of the battlemented 'Keep', watching the Hereford to Shrewsbury train speed past far below me (no trains back in the 13th century. And then a sudden flashback: over 50 years ago, I stood at the top of another Keep, in a different castle, looking down on a steam-train chuffing its way through the Berkshire landscape. It was 1954, and I wrote a 'thankyou poem' for my great aunt, whose guest at Donnington I was.

I had to climb a narrow twisting stairway to reach the top of the Keep

but the view was worth it - if only the sun had shone

Margaret Wood, whose treatise on medieval domestic architecture is cited as 'further reading' in the English Heritage Guide to Stokesay Castle'. Dear Great Aunt Peggy, now long dead, who nurtured my teenage love of theatrical history. And what a moment, what a place, to re-discover you."

I loaned a copy of my Great Aunt's book to a friend, and never got it back

We have been back home now almost a week and the peace of the place has seeped into me, and the quiet of the high Long Mynd. Perhaps I can now put behind me the shock of the magazine closure and the trauma of seeking new work. Perhaps I can also begin to journal again. Open a new window, a new chapter, and move forward again. Meanwhile, I so look forward to catching up on other bloggers' posts; It feels as if I have been away for a long, long time.

part of the peaceful enclosed garden where Raymond and I sat quietly, drinking tea and eating scones with cream

I will not forget 'those blue remembered hills' (A.E. Houseman, from 'A Shropshire Lad') - I discovered that 2009 is the 150th anniversary of Houseman's birth; certainly this area is 'the land of lost content'. I must look out my college anthology and steep myself again in his verse, and climb the steep stairs to my roof-top work-room, and slather paint once more.


  1. Although I wasn't a writer on your level, being commissioned and so forth, I did write local history features for one particular magazine, whose payment was equal to three or four times what I would normally expect from a county mag, so I was very happy that they took two pieces a year. It was a nice little sum of money for me, back in the 90s. Then come the millenium it changed hands, and history was no longer a feature.... lots of glossy ads and reviews of fancy restaurants, but no wallowing in the past any more. I missed the money, but more than that, I missed the writing. These days I have other interests, but I add this little comment just to let you know that in a wee small way, I do understand how sad and let down you felt.

  2. Hello Ann,

    Stokesay Castle is as you point out a lovely lovely building, I used to live in Herefordshire and it has a strange mixture of beautiful light and a more rugged landscape scattered with architectural gems. Another favorite of mine is Kinnersley Castle.

  3. Rocky times for so many at the moment. So happy yours' are gradually turning to smaller stones and pebbles - and hopefully before long you will be treading on soft warm sands instead. Good to see you back though! keep those spirits up!

  4. I love this bit of Shropshire and don't know if you have come our way, over the border into Wales but still border country. If you can, you should. It is very beautiful.
    Glad to hear you are finding your feet in your new world.

  5. Change we don't choose - most challenging indeed. And many things seem to be changing. Thank you for the beautiful memories and photos.

  6. What a shock! Magazines closing is always sad, but especially when you write for them! I know how you feel! Glad you have come through and found other outlets.

    I don't remember ever having been in Stokesay Castle - though I have been there in the past, but maybe we only looked at the outside. It was a long time ago, must go there again, if summer ever appears!

    Nice to have you back blogging!

  7. Ann I do understand and sympathise. I find that creativity can retreat from me like a frightened animal at times of trauma and the hard mental work that ensues from something like this. What a joy though that moments such as your top-of-the-tower flashback bring the creative energy flooding immediately back, undiluted and immediate. Wishing you all that you need to tap into it again soon :-)

  8. Sorry to hear about your outlet for your articles going out of business, always a shock. Hope you get lots more new commissions. You deserve it.
    Best wishes

  9. How devastating to find this chance to publicize Malvern gone (well, almost). As someone above said, very rocky times indeed. so sorry about that. The photo where you lamented the lack of sun is lovely. I don't think the colors would have been quite as good with too much sun. Maybe the clouds were a good thing. - Jeanne

  10. Sorry to hear this Ann - challenging times - I am being made redundant from part time work in a month but have changed it to something more positive and the opportunity it gives me to be an ARTIST full time! And I am moving to Plymouth and starting a new life in my 60's! Like me you have many blessings in your life to be thankful for I know - all the best with your writing (which I always enjoy so much)

  11. Sorry for your trauma, Ann. You have my sympathy as a fellow-sufferer in job loss. The good thing about being a writer, of course, is that we can always work. the trick is to get paid for it! it sounds like you've made inroad there. best of luck. alicia from atlanta

  12. Every day...we must begin again.

    I wish you the best of luck and will survive!