By day three, we’ve all settled in well to the routine of waking up to the swallow chicks chirping out for their breakfast, the cat playfully jumping on our beds far too early in the morning and all of us ambling down to our own breaking of the fast in the sunshine.
Wednesday saw Sharon, our American writer from Buckingham, Browne and Nichol School in Boston (a Round Square connection) lead the morning session, with some lovely activities including one which involved us using childhood photos as inspiration for a writing piece. Mr Maxted’s photo was particularly striking in illustrating his development.
After another delicious lunch, we all felt so settled, not a single student wanted to leave the grounds of our temporary home but instead enjoyed reading, snoozing and meeting for one-to-one tutorials with the two authors.
At four o’clock, the day’s cooking team – Lola, Alex, Lily, and Scotia – met Lucie for their dinner briefing. The meal was home-made pizza and Eton mess and we had a lot of fun rolling out the dough, taking orders and cooking each pizza to order. While it took longer than expected (who knew how hard it is to roll out dough thin enough?!), the results were delicious and we discovered several talents – Lola is a dab hand with a pizza paddle, Alex can spin the dough like a pro, Scotia is excellent at taking orders while Lily is brilliant at holding the team together.
The evening saw us all read from passages of favourite novels or poems we admire so we entertained ourselves with snippets of F Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf’s, Coetze, John Donne and even a bit of Agatha Christie (And Then There Were None was an apt reading for a remote country house party, although, it’s the cat here who does the murdering of field mice).
Such a beautiful morning and the later than normal start allowed us to get going at our own pace. While the wonderful Lucie, and Mr Goldsmith, have been making flapjacks and preparing lunch in the kitchen, the group have been hard at work in their first full session with Tim. They will be taken through a variety of exercises and discussions over the next few days, beavering away at the huge dining table.
The afternoon will bring a walk down to the river, one-to-one meetings with the authors and relaxing on the lawn before home-made fish cakes and a fruit crumble. Yum!
What a great group! We all met in the right place, beside the statue of Brunel at Paddington, our train was not overly full and we got the VIP treatment as we were a school group so got on before they’d announced the platform. Just two hours out of London, trundling past the coach loads of welly wearing Glastonbury festival goers, and we were at Tiverton Parkway station in Devon. Forty minutes later, after a drive up the River Exe valley into the Somerset hills on the edge of the Exmoor National Park, we arrived at our home for the next few days – Northmoor House.
The house is more beautiful than the photos capture as its charm comes not just from its natural setting, but also the faded, time warp quality of a Victorian country house which has not been excessively modernised. Yes, there’s electricity and a phone line, but the servants’ bells are still in place and the bathrooms are furnished with huge cast iron baths and washstands with jugs.
Yesterday, after settling into our rooms, Thalia, Milly-Ann, Isaac and Flora got stuck into cooking a barbecue and, despite some teething problems with getting to know a new kitchen and catering for 17, we ate well and enjoyed being outside at the evening set in and the swallows came to roost in the eaves.
We finished our evening with the first session run by our two writers – Tim Clare and Sharon Krauss who will be running our workshops. Tim is a published novelist with an amazing level of energy and enthusiasm, while Sharon has flown all the way from Boston where she is Chair of the English Faculty at Buckingham Brown and Nichols School in Cambridge. They’re a fellow Round Square school and she is with us, thanks to the support of her school – great to see international partnerships working so well!
As we went off to our rooms, with the creaking corridors and country silences, the stars out of our windows were glorious.