END OF STORY

Share
Last week, I went on a "writing for beginners" course. Two tutors and 16 aspiring writers living for five days in an isolated, 12th-century farmhouse with no television.

On the morning of the second day, there was a rebellion. Five of the students thought that one of the tutors wasn't up to scratch and complained to the management. They weren't getting their money's worth, they felt. One of the rebels, a floor-manager for Sky TV, was so disaffected he packed his bags and left the course there and then, thus forfeiting his pounds 300 fee.

This was excellent news for me, because I was able to take over his room for the rest of the course. (Until then I had shared a room with a Scots accountant who talked only in his sleep.) Hard lines on the tutor, though, who had recently had a triple heart bypass operation, and was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer of the colon, which had made all his hair fall out, forcing him to wear a wig.

Sadly, the Sky TV floor-manager's angry departure lost some of its drama because he couldn't get out of the carpark until three people could be found to move their cars.

I suppose 16 aspiring writers living cheek by jowl is always going to generate a certain amount of neurotic tension. Some years ago, apparently, there was a poetry-writing course held here, led by the poet Craig Raine. One day, Raine found a dead mole in the garden, brought it into the house and dissected it on the kitchen table in front of his fellow poets. He put the remains on a plate in the fridge, and there it stayed throughout the course.

One of the aspiring young poets took the mole thing badly. Whether the sight, every time he opened the fridge door, of a sliced mole on a plate unhinged him, or whether he was simply a committed anti-vivisectionist, remains unclear; but in the night he got into Raine's room and defecated on him as he slept.

Some have speculated that he might have been making a forthright, nihilistic statement about poets, or even about poetry in general, and if so ought to have been congratulated. But sadly, the man left nothing on paper to confirm or deny any suggestions of this kind.

Bernie from Aintree told us about a course he'd been on with the poet Wendy Cope. On the first night, one student, also called Wendy, went to bed early. As there were gaps between the floorboards, she could hear the others talking downstairs.

Unfortunately Wendy was slightly paranoid, and she couldn't hear exactly what was being said. So, whenever the words "Wendy Cope" drifted up through the floorboards, she assumed she was the subject of the conversation. The burning question of the hour seemed to be: "Can Wendy cope?" It took the rest of them a long time to work out why she'd left in such a hurry, Bernie said.

I moved all my stuff into the room vacated by the Sky TV bloke and made myself at home. Later, when I went out, I locked the door behind me. It was strange how even in the countryside, miles from the nearest village, I was still worried about burglars. When I told Julie from Putney about this, she said she'd heard that the only thing ever stolen from here was the compost heap.

The possibility that there might be people in this world who covet other people's compost heaps was one I hadn't considered before, and it rather shook me. But if local fences were avid for compost heaps rather than laptop computers, I could afford to relax.

One afternoon I was woken by shouting. Josephine from Barbados had locked herself in the bathroom and couldn't get out. Josephine was writing a play and she had given me some useful tips. The first rule of thumb when writing a play, she said, was that speeches should be no longer than your thumb. I'd bear it in mind, I said.

In the end I couldn't get the bathroom window open either, so I kicked the door down. While I was kicking the door down she was screaming, a little. Although I was still half asleep, kicking a door down in the middle of the afternoon, with an attractive young lady yelling on the other side, was very stimulating. Better than writing any day.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Network Security Engineer, CCNP

£200 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Network Security Engineer, CCNP Lon...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teacher required with Early Years...

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

Day In a Page

Read Next
High and mighty: Edinburgh Castle and city skyline  

i Editor's Letter: We're coming to Edinburgh

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Members of the community farming group at work in their community fields near the town of Masi Manimba, Bandundu Province, DRC.  

The five biggest myths surrounding overseas aid

Billy Hill
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?