Tuesday, 27 June 2017


The women there formed groups faster than their children did. Today they huddle together under a cracked plastic shelter. Rivers of water sheet down the sides and obscure their features. Rain coats in primary colours are distorted smudges, a shattered rainbow where the women hide.

The rain is relentless, driving sideways and flooding the grey tarmac. The clouds roll, purple edged and thick with the threat of snow. Saplings along the top of the field bend precariously, infant leaves drooping wetly.

Abandoned playground equipment is a curious mix of sodden wood and dull metal and fat beads of rain plop into the puddles in between.  The deluge down the slide skids into the divot at its end, dug there from the idle skid of polished shoes.
Those who don't fit under the shelter stay close to the wall, heads bowed and hoods pulled low. Their shoulders are hunched and they look up only to squint briefly at the still locked door, waiting.

In the middle of the playground though, far from shelter, it is thunderous. The rain beats down and bounces back up like little soldiers across the tarmac. Forgoing a coat, my top is sodden and heavy, my hair plastered darkly across my cheeks. My head is held high, water running into my eyes where it stings. I watch the door too, waiting. Waiting for her to burst through and chase across the swollen ground where I will brace myself, ready. Waiting for the sun to come out.


Monday, 8 May 2017

Wells Next The Sea

Lips smack, shovelling grease with greedy fingers.

Squelch-rip of beady-eyed prawns; wooden stab of curled beige

Whelks in squeaky polystyrene. All under the wide, full gaze of a

Tired child, the day smeared across them. Grit of sand and
Tide mark of synthetic vanilla.

On tiptoes, peering through a window of fudge and toffee, coveting
Fat sticks of rock, striped and sticky beneath yellowed cellophane.
Dodging the violent paroxysm of a reeking dog and the smarting spray
Of saltwater on bare legs. A bowl of gun-metal grey, invaded

By a blunt nose and lolling tongue, skidding across the floor, blossoming
Dark stain on red concrete.
Later, tomato juice with unpleasant bite squashed beside
The one armed bandit and the reek of stale beer.
A packet of ready salted crisps to share while you
Sit still. Just the one. Then just one more as the cue ball thuds dully
And bumps against frayed green.

Exhausted, insatiable grind of mechanical jaws on copper, feeding
Ambition and futility through one tarnished slot. Stumbling
Inside, air sharp with rapid staccato bleeps and electronic pop,
Harsh light spilling across the quay

Waiting buckets, for the folly of creatures tricked
By flabby bacon dangled on taut lines
Hauled up from inky water with the stench of fish
And panicked pincers grasping at air. Stolen from

The sea, vast and unknowable, its silent depths stretching
Out, out where the buoys are

by Rhonda Peak

Wednesday, 5 April 2017



The North Sea cannot sleep
waves float across its shores
they dig into barnacles, they vault
over steps lost on wailing sands.
Waves slither amongst the shells
they prowl around the driftwood,
they fly aroused into dreams
pulled taut by the Arctic wind.

In My Dream of Absolute
I am in a dream
I am a flame
I see my home
as the lawgiver’s lease
comes to an end.
I am confused
by buds and wild fungi
I can taste the leaves
in the blue arboretum.
I am an imprint…
I can hear his violin
in the baroque grassland
of imitation colours.

I am in a barouche
across the barley fields
under a riot of blue
I can smell summer –
I am with our dingo
I hover in the mirror
of my dream into the absolute -
And I fall.

The Weather Forecast
How should I dress
to walk the dogs
in Wayland Wood?
my glassy winter clothes
or summer dripping wet ones?
umbrellas, boots or galoshes?
perhaps a parasol?

How should I dress
to walk the dogs
in Wayland Wood?
ghosts on satellite images
on the TV weather forecast
a starched sky for now
plastic stickers on the map
How should I dress
to walk the dogs
in Wayland Wood?
the presenter holds on
wailing hot and pounding feet
on now melting tarmac
filtered cold, clasped and twisted

How should I dress
to walk the dogs
in Wayland Wood?
skater in the night or in a day dream
innocent destinations on a map
the weather?
just another thought!

How should I dress
to walk the dogs
in Wayland Wood?

The Bonfire
The town was quiet. There was no light at the windows of the houses. The flowers along the waterfront were dying. The pavement cafes were long closed.
Intense buzzing was coming from the Chateau, renovated by Mr & Mrs Candlebody the previous summer.
Genevieve feared the dark. Her parents had to promise her a list of gifts to persuade her to join them to The Candlebody’s party for she did not get on with their children. She disliked them intensely.
When they arrived at the Chateau, wide-eyed, she measured the yard with the pile of wood up to the portcullis. She felt breathless with all her five years old.
When the invited crowed – the very good spilled from the capital and the best the department could offer - lit the fire, Genevieve let out one of those rare primordial screams that one hears in films or when animals are ritually slaughtered.
She was louder than the burning wood on the bonfire. The windows of the Chateau shuddered and broke into pieces. A shame as they had the original glass and had survived the fury of the French Revolution!
The leaves on the trees fell and a wild storm began to torment as it never did in that area, ever.

On the Sands
‘It’s irresistible!’ Julia sums up as she takes in the still, oily heat that criss-crosses the surface of the waters at Southwold and beyond.
Let’s go and sample the buzzing of the beach’ suggests Zak. ‘If we’re lucky we might get a deckchair.’ He utters this as he considers the stacks of deckchairs that are breaking the view of the multi coloured huts that ripple with the waves. ‘Though, what does your mother want to do?’
‘Shush! She can hear you, her hearing is very acute!’ and I touch Zak on his lips. From the first floor balcony that opens onto the beach, I spy seagulls that cut the air in sharp loops beneath the eyeglass of the sun.
‘Mum, will you join us on the beach?’ I ask as I move away from the folds of the curtains.
‘No need to shout, dear! I can hear you perfectly well. It’s too hot for me. It’s nearly midday. I shall sit in the armchair here and watch all through my binoculars.’
            The hours flow on. With her binoculars, she can spot the pier and  the clock shaped as a bathtub and hear it strike on the hour and on the half-past, its wheels rotated by propelled water.
            Images are rolling on.
            No turning back for mums dressed in the colours of the azure while
their offspring gulp chilled fizzy water. Exhausted on opened deckchairs experienced dads sail siestas as the sky blushes even stronger. Further on, it’s business as usual. At the end of the pier amateur anglers check the horizon for moving shadows and hidden waves.
            From the inside of the open window, a hover-fly tries to escape. Julia’s mother attempts to stand up, but falls back into the armchair. Outside, far away, the sky is weighing its blue over the deckchairs in animal print, over the maze of mums, dads and kids.
            Julia’s mother cannot see Julia and Zak, who have not made her a grandmother. She would have liked to be able to shop for buckets, spades, and fish and chips against battleships of seagulls.
            The sea salt and the smell of people waft from the beach.
            She feels streaky and she feels cold. Her right hand lifts momentarily, then the light turns blind. Her eyes stare into darkness. Her dreams have faded away from her mind, like everything else.
            The hover-fly lingers at the edge of the glass and flies away.
M.C. Gardner

Tuesday, 21 March 2017


We had a fabulous week of happenings related to Words and Women's launch of their fourth anthology.  Words And Women: Four.

Words And Women: Four is the latest showcase collection of short prose by women writers nationally over the age of 40 and at any age in the East of England. The memoir, fiction, and creative non-fiction inside reflects the brilliance, boldness and depth of women’s contemporary writing.

 This year’s anthology is an eclectic collection of high quality prose, a many-layered read of subtlety, passion, and depth. There are startling, compelling and moving texts, an insight into the dark and crippling relationships between husbands and wives, the love between a father and daughter.  Nocturnal visitors bivouac on the edge of vision, the lost follow a winter’s map, there is a rapid intellectual joy ride with a Komodo dragon. There are memories of haunted trees, the struggle for recognition and change, living with the threat of sectarian violence and so much more. This book reflects the way we live, hope and love now.

This is a book for the reader who wants to peel back the layers and wander through rich and complex worlds featuring winning entries from our annual new writing competition. This year’s guest judge Naomi Wood, author of ‘The Godless Boys’ has selected a range of texts that show us what it is to be alive in a time of change. 
Order from Amazon, Waterstones, Unthank Books or from the following link: https://wordery.com/

Below is a blog posted on the Writer's Centre comment pages outlining what we got up to from March 7th to 11th...

Red umbrellas, loose text, logos, and a pint of pvc, white boxes, missing bios, wandering programmes, tight deadline for book orders, more text pressed onto vinyl, plastic or glass? Fruit Juice, Wine, Beer, Water? Too groovy Fem(ale)? Timelines, schedules, endless emails, train times, risk assessments, social media, insurance, art, picture frames, flyers in hand, posters on watering hole walls and literary haunts, a countdown of tasks. The peculiarly knotty problem of creating stencils when hours are shaved off night and day.  Lists extend.  It is that month, then that week and then the day.

It is our latest Words and Women celebration of International Women’s Day and the launch of our fourth anthology, Words and Women: Four.  This time it is a week of happening.  We like to vary what we do.  Last year we marked our fifth anniversary with a sell-out night at Norwich Arts Centre with readings from winners of our annual competition featured in our anthology published by Unthank Books. Louisa Theobald, a brilliantly funny and observant compere, introduced not only last year’s winning writers but music so powerful from Sink Ya Teeth, Emily Winng and Sargasso Trio followed by the incomparable Karen Reilly and the Neutrinos that we knew this year had to be entirely different.  Last year was a rich anniversary, it felt golden, honestly, and it was BIG.  This year had to be completely different.  We turned on our pinhead and came up with City of Women, a week of Book, Print, Art and Voice.

'Going High'
It is also a year of many collaborations.  This is what we can sometimes do through Words and Women - draw in other creatives to help celebrate and launch a book – and it feels so good.  We habitually try to claim a bit more public space for women and in commissioning new work where we can.  This year, we approached Print to the People, the Norwich-based print collective to create original artwork in response to the national and regional prize winning stories. Deborah Arnander’s complex short story The Wife, winner of our new national prize for women over 40, and Melissa Fu’s elegiac non-fiction piece Suite for My Father, which won our regional award. Nunns Yard Gallery on St. Augustine’s Street is now under occupation for a week.  The work is up. Images inspired by story…even the exhibition title These Stories are like Paths has been hooked neatly out of Deborah’s fictional telling, and neatly leads us from the gallery to 13A, a small shop front additional exhibition space just down the road. In here, local artist Clare Jarrett, is creating an installation over seven days, inspired by all those words spilling out from the pages of our anthology.

Artist Jo Stafford
We still needed to mark International Women’s Day.  And since our audience was spread over a week and our launch event with Naomi Wood, this year’s guest judge, was ticketed, although free, with a limit on entry, we needed something spectacular for the day itself. Not only that but something uplifting in these politically and socially darkening days.  That’s where the umbrellas come in.

We decided to busk inspirational words written by women around the city centre.  Triggered by Michelle Obama’s exhortation – ‘when they go low, we go high’ - this part of a week of happening had its own title too… ‘Going High.’ Enter our next collaboration, this time with Chalk Circle Theatre Company and my insomniac wrestling with stencils and black paint. 

Installation by Clare Jarrett

We found a range of women, happy to read on the street, all the texts, personally selected, personally meaningful. For strong visual impact and the staging of an arresting and moving spectacle, we called on Adina Levay, artistic director of Chalk Circle Theatre Company.

Next came the red umbrellas, women dressed in black, and a schedule of appearances.  We could reach out. It plays on protest. It is protest to put good strong words onto the street.

National prize winner Deborah Arnander, two guest judges, Naomi Wood and Emma Healey and former runner up Rowan Whiteside.

Anna Metcalfe reading

We have the city that does different to thank for its support and we collected for ECPAT UK, a charity campaigning against child-trafficking and transnational child exploitation, and raised £162 in a few hours.


Words and Women is a voluntary organisation set up and run by Belona Greenwood and Lynne Bryan.  It is a showcase for women writers who live in the East of England, or nationally over 40, at all stages of their professional careers in an annual celebration of regional creativity on International Women’s Day, and through commissioning opportunities and an annual new writing prize.

Words and Women has twice been shortlisted for the national Saboteur Awards and, this year for the second time, Words and Women were runners up in the Women in Publishing award for ‘pioneering venture.’

Belona Greenwood

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Poem inspired by Tapestry

I, Miss Lorina Bulwer

The words spill out,
Tumble over themselves.
They say, why am I here?

The rant goes on at length,
Suddenly lucid thoughts prevail
Slow and deliberate,
Speaking of people she has known
With Royal connections
The Maharajah of Kelvedon
Caught in a tapestry web

Dr Pinching from Essex was the bearer
Of the good news.
A properly shaped female
Not a eunuch or hermaphrodite
But Aphrodite!
Did her birth confuse them?
And send her to the workhouse?

Sister and brother sealed her fate,
Parental death bore her there
On sibling’s arms.
To that place where nothing lives
Except despair
And Turnbridge and Powell.
Lives preserved in linen and thread

Lives preserved in linen and thread.
Shame on famous families
Great names hide there,
Gurneys, Bulwers of Wood Dalling,
Did they know?
The plots are uncovered
One by one by this tortured soul.

It hurts me to read,
I feel sick and tired,
Reality holds her with a thin thread,
Fate sealed here, but she knows
Truth will appear one day.
For now, she hides it
In a cupboard to preserve.

Hilary Hanbury  January 2017

Lorina was an inmate in the lunatic wing of Great Yarmouth workhouse where she angrily embroidered her letters on trailing lengths of patchwork fabric, venting about being locked up and abandoned by friends and family. Her furious hand-stitched letters, painstakingly sewn together while she was incarcerated, have long fascinated me.

The tapestry was found long after her death over a hundred years ago and has recently been on display at a number of Norfolk Museums.

I am presently writing a novel inspired by her story.

Change of Date for next Rural Writes meeting in Gorleston.

Our meeting which was to be held on 7th Feb is cancelled and as the following week falls in half term, the next meeting will be 11.30 - 13.30 on 21st February. 

If anyone from the other groups which make up the Rural Writes team of writers would like to visit one of the Gorleston meetings you will be made very welcome. 

Poem by Lyn McKinney

Julia Webb's Poetry Masterclass at Gorleston Rural Writes group encouraged one of our members to pen the poem below. It was inspired by our current theme,  the Women of Norfolk.
There will be more following very soon.

Thank you Lyn for the lovely engraving which is featured with the poem.


Leaving Yarmouth town Plough Monday
Sisters board the brig as though it were
A stepping stone to a dream.
A crescent moon hangs low
Over the black waters of the Yare
Showing their path to the stars.

Ropes are cast and the lights of familiar places
Fall away in the deepening gloom,
Sails flapping, salt spray flying, she’s away
Out into the bay on the rising tide.
Families huddle below creaking decks
As the cradle rocks ominously.

Father Towne watches over his girls,
Sleeping in their woollen shawls,
Their arms around each other.
Was it God who called him to Paradise?
How can he know
Their dark destiny?

Six bells, and a bleak, uncaring morning,
Only the brave are there to see it;
Rough seas break across the bow,
Making the timbers creak in pain.
There are few takers for the bread
And thin soup.

Six year old Mary holds Rebecca’s hand,
Lest she should lose her footing
And be pulled overboard by the sea serpents.
But her sister keeps them at bay,
With stories of lions and tigers,
And kindly strangers.

Two months at sea, with pale faces anxiously
Scanning the horizon, until a lengthy shoreline looms.
There is a service of thanksgiving where  
Mary clutches her doll and smiles up at Rebecca.
Who knows what devilment awaits them
In Salem, Mass?

by  Lyn McKinney