Country Days

Country Days by Alice; Taylor

Book: Country Days by Alice; Taylor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alice; Taylor
could see that they took this whole workshop business very seriously. I was beginning to think that maybe I had bitten off more than I could digest when a light-hearted Dublin man read a very funny short story he had written, and the whole room rang with laughter.
    Some people there had published work and were anxious to polish their techniques, others were keen to be published, others just enjoyed writing – if they got published that was an extra bonus – and some were there for the fun. A large man who satbeside me scarcely opened his mouth for the first few days, which made me extremely nervous; when I attempted conversation, he peered out over his rimless spectacles at me as if I were talking nonsense – a possibility I did not entirely rule out. It had got to the stage where I was afraid to open my mouth, because when I am nervous I babble. One day, because he had no choice, he read a short story he had written. It was sad, sensitive and beautiful. When he had finished reading, some of the people in the workshop had tears in their eyes. His story merited a round of applause and he was dreadfully embarrassed. I was amazed that such a grumpy, arrogant man, as I had thought him to be, could have written such a story, and I couldn’t resist telling him so.
    “But,” he protested, “I’m not arrogant, just terrified. I was so nervous coming to this workshop that I decided to keep a low profile.”
    “You certainly succeeded,” I told him. “I was scared stiff to open my mouth to you after my first few attempts.”
    A big smile lit up his face and from then on we enjoyed the workshop and each other’s company. As the workshop unfolded with the days, it became apparent that it was sometimes the most retiring in the group who were the talented ones. But the variety of people present made me realise that the urge to write spans all barriers, and as we relaxed and came to know each other better, we got greatenjoyment out of our week together.
    Apart from the workshops, the days in Listowel offered a variety of readings, book launches, talks and drama. The happenings were spread all around the town, in the library, the hall, St John’s church, the school and the pubs. In order to attend every function it would have been necessary to have winged feet. I was intrigued by one elderly nun who could have been clocking eighty and who was present at every event. We christened her the flying nun.
    Our minds were stirred by a talk in the library on the poets of North Kerry, while in St John’s church Sam McAughtry gave an unchurchlike and very amusing talk. He read from his works and opened our minds to the ordinary lives of the Protestant community in Northern Ireland and the humour that enables people to live together despite the continuing violence.
    In the hotel ballroom Bob Kingdom took us on a mental journey to Wales and brought alive the beauty and cutting wit of Dylan Thomas. We were almost afraid to clear our throats lest we miss a gem-laden line. A mother with a gurgling baby in arms waving a plastic rattle had drifted in but felt compelled to bow out. Dylan Thomas shared centre stage with no one.
    So packed was the schedule that there was hardly time to eat. People from the different workshops mixed and chatted in the hotel and in the pubs,where impromptu concerts and poetry readings developed. Mid-week a literary pub crawl led by a bodhrán player did the rounds, each pub staging a literary event, but towards the end of the night the literary vision of all concerned had become a little blurred. We did not see bed until the small hours of the morning, as people gathered in groups to discuss the different events and sometimes impromptu readings and long discussions followed. One American couple told me that they came to Listowel for Writers’ Week every year. They did not join any workshop and they did not write; they just enjoyed being there for that week.
    One night we were in a pub full of locals who had no

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