Did you hear the one about...?
The week started at Craven Arms station. My first independent train journey since my hip op and I'd forgotten to ask about steps, lifts and heavy suitcases. A friendly young pastor from Elim Church, who spoke to me of God most of the way from Cardiff, put his religion into practice and hauled my case onto the platform. The train fled out of the station leaving me alone with a case the size of a package holiday, a steep flight of steps and an obvious question. An elderly man appeared and when I asked him he told me he'd just had a hernia operation. He bravely put his repaired stomach lining to good use and between us we dragged my case stuffed with pens, notebooks, walking boots and malt whiskey up, over and down to the waiting minibus. The driver had been John (Look Back in Anger) Osbourne's housekeeper. As she drove at breakneck speed through darkening and narrowing countryside I tried to pump her for juicy gossip. The most she could say was, he was 'nice'.
'Hurst House' set in lolloping Shropshire countryside was the residence of Osbourne and his last wife (Number 5, I think). The Arvon Foundation runs creative writing courses there and after a glass of wine other staff were willing to be a bit more entertaining. Apparently, John liked to party and enjoyed a drink in company. Writers were made to stay up with him carousing until the early hours and John was ready for bed. On one occasion, a gardener found him asleep in the grounds, surrounded by numerous empty champagne bottles. On enquiring if he was alright, John roused himself to say,'Where am I? My, that was a bloody good party!' He later died of liver disease. The epitaph on his grave says, 'Let me know where you're working tomorrow night and I'll come and see you.'
That night as I lie in bed trying to sleep the house whispered and groaned as if John was angry with me. I knew he hated his mother and had acrimonious relationships with most of his wives. He disowned his 17year old daughter, cast her out of the family home, never speaking to her again. Perhaps he also had a problem with female students. However, the following morning, David one of the tutors said, 'I think it was me he was angry with. He must have heard that I only like two of his plays'
David Eldridge and Tanika Gupta are two talented playwrights/tutors who entertained and instructed us throughout the week in aspects of theatre writing and stories about their colleagues, the famous and infamous:- writers, directors, actors, and celebrities. David has a new play,'Not of the Heart' to be performed at the Almeida in London next March and Tanika is doing an Indian adaptation of Great Expectations, soon to tour the UK. They both gave me positive feedback on my work. David liked my play 'The Reunion' and suggested helpful ways of making it better. Tanika told me I was a natural writer but that my play,'Two-step at Glanyrafon' had already been written by Martin McDonagh. The play was his first and made him a star. I'd never heard of him. So, it looks like I've a lot of rewriting ahead of me. No matter, the Sherman script writing course is coming to an end. On December 11th I'll be 'locked in' in Chapter Arts Centre with several other writers to write a play that must be finished by mid January. This may give me the kick I need to finish one play and start a rewrite of another.