Posted on 11 August 2004

The last few days have passed quickly and there hasn’t been much breathing space or time for journaling. I met trains, introduced people to village on the 7th; shopped for feast on the 8th with Marlene, Bett, and Ursula, and did a run into the country with Ramona for wine and champagne. In the afternoon, Rob, Gill, and Shirin left for the jazz festival and their jaunt to Spain, graciously leaving the house open for writers.

Four of us prepared the feast for the welcome dinner. I put my beautiful French tablecloth on the table and set a bowl of sunflowers in the middle. Ursula made a green mixed salad look like a work of art in the large Morrocan bowl that Helen gave me. Bett made garlic potatoes. I stewed zucchini Susan-fashion and and set all on the table with pate, cheese, bread, fresh fruit and later a peach tarte. To the side of the table, I set a large bucket filled with a huge bouquet of pink and violet blossoms interwined with greenery – a gift from Ursula and Bett.

Everyone loved the abundance. And Lyn, who attended the workshop last year, joined us. She called it a bribe which it sort of was as I ran to her at the last minute and ask if she could pick up a writer in Gaillac who was arriving late and she did. But still, she sat at the far end of the table and was a welcome guest.

We are small eclectic group this first week. There’s Kay, tall, elegant, a former journalist, 84 years old, who wishes her writing more literary. She apologizes too often at first. She has nothing to apologize about. She writes beautifully and after two and half days is reading without prefacing. Marian, another writer from Vancouver, with tossed curly blond hair, a traveler, bright, high school counsellor, appears (to me) most at ease with her emotions and her writing. Ramona, founder of the Writing Centre at UBC, fellow lover of wine and cheese and more, appears in awe of the village and countryside. I have no idea how many pictures she’s taken. She told me when she arrived that doesn’t read her writing but she lies. Kathy is in the same house as Ramona. She is from Toronto, a nurse, and learned about the course – oh dear I can’t remember – either from the paper or internet. She is soft, quiet, brave, amongst strangers and she too reads her work.

Ursula, Marlene’s friend from Toronto who will assist her next week, is one of us this week. She is lovely, so lovely, soft, generous, and can she write? Yes. It’s easy to see why she and Marlene are friends. Sometimes I have to rub my eyes when Marlene is facilitating a group of writers. She is composed, eloquent, generous, kind, and weaves some kind of magic that pushes all to move beyond their boundaries.

And then there’s Bett and me. Bett extends herself to help me, setting out the breakfast table, running for croissants, brewing coffee, cutting melon, clearing and cleaning and more and worrying too much that she isn’t efficient. She’s also a woman who doesn’t mince her words, writes like a poet, and has a huge heart.

So we have been sitting, writing together for two and a half days and grow more comfortable with each other every minute. The weather is cooler than last year. Last night, Clare, my friend joined us for dinner at La Table Sommier in Gaillac, a restaurant that serves food to complement the wine. (Oh dear Shirley. I can never remember what compliment to use.) It was a lovely evening, sitting under the stars, sipping champagne and or wine (Clare and I behaved ourselves with one glass a piece as we were the drivers), and eating, eating, eating…

Today was a half day. This morning we wrote from dreams and I had a small epiphany that pleased and exhausted me. I will talk about it again but this is my catch-up journal and my head is too full. In the afternoon, when four of the writers took off for Albi, I slept.

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