Doorway Writing Group January/February 2019

Doorway Writing Group January/February 2019
Our last two sessions have seen a good number of guests keen to engage with the crossword and our chosen wordsearches – most recently on the themes of wild animals and dances – and we had a few nice chats as a result: comparing our awful dance skills and thinking about when we last saw/whether we have ever seen an otter, a water vole or a dormouse. Discussing animals soon took us on to literature. Who remembered Wind in the Willows or the dormouse in the teapot in Alice in Wonderland? Who had read the book (or seen the film of) Tarka the Otter?
None of these books is currently in our Doorway library but there have been some great additions to it recently: a lovely selection of pocket-sized versions of some of the classics and – for those happier with a larger font size – a number of large-print romantic stories, found lurking (with amorous intent?) on the Wilko’s charity bookshelf. There’s certainly plenty of choice now including some poetry, a collection of which was recently enjoyed by our resident poet, artist, lyricist, the multi-talented J. It’s heartwarming to be able to report that J himself has just been videoed reading one of his own (brilliant) poems ‘Winter’ for St Petroc’s in Cornwall as part of their public awareness campaign to end street homelessness. Incidentally ‘Winter’ also features in Doorway’s 2017 publication Come on Through, an anthology of poems and lyrics penned by the Writing Group.
Read on for yet another example of J’s wonderful poetic touch, his evocative and poignant poem Home-Time.

Home-Time (a poem by J)
How did we make it through
that dreadful wait for home time?
Staring out of the window
as the minutes blur into hours.
How did we survive the crush
and the jostling at the bus stop?
Chattering like starlings,
past the bullies lurking behind the school gates
The smell of fish paste sandwiches,
petrol fumes and dust.
to a responsible adult,
family pet,
or children’s TV.
Hobbies, fashions and passions
pass the time until tea
Even now:
after the passage of years
and home time is over
without a blink of an eye
the child is wishing
in a world without wings
waiting to be free
at home time.

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Doorway Writing Group November/December 2018

Doorway Writing Group November/December 2018

Here’s just a super-quick post to round off our year with the Doorway Writing Group. The last couple of sessions have been characterised by some lovely teamwork and solidarity, guests and volunteers grouping together to complete wordsearches and puzzle over crossword clues. This month’s wordsearch, based on familiar pantomimes, got us all remembering some fun anecdotes from the past. We’ve had some nice chats about reading and innovative ways to go about writing. And, of course, please read on for some poetic brilliance from our star writer J and a thought-provoking response to the Writing Group “leave your comment on a post-it” challenge from another of our guests (anon).
Merry Christmas from all of us at Doorway! See you in the New Year!

Making Waves (poem by J)

God made waves to teach the angels how to fly.
And then the homeless taught them how to land.
History breaks like waves
on the hillsides
Brain waves
and waves of music
and we are dancing
Swirling like autumn leaves
In a mysterious motion of waves.

Universal Credit
Is Universal Chaos
(lines by anon)

Doorway Drives Away the Blues (poem by J)

Al, Tom and Ray
Came to save the day
The people clapped and yelled hooray
We sat down and they taught us to play
Driving the blues away

Miriam, the bongo queen
She was not mean
Just lean and keen
At driving the blues away

As if the day could
not be gloomier
There’s warmth and humour with a tune
in the roomiere

And I would give a host of angel choirs
For another of those Doorway hours

Free-falling, London calling
Mustang Sally, Gasoline Alley

And sitting on the dock of the bay
Sitting on the dock of the bay

So if your dreams aren’t what you planned
You betcha they will understand
Pop some music on the stand
And we’re driving the blues away

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Doorway Writing Group July/August 2018

Doorway Writing Group July/August 2018

Where does an English children’s author share letters with a mapmaker or a venomous snake cross paths with a river nymph? Well, where else but in the monthly Doorway Writing Group crossword? Alongside word searches on types of cake and wild birds, guests were challenged to list the months of the year in alphabetical order or encouraged to borrow a book from our little library. All to exercise the brain, stimulate our creativity or simply take our minds off the oppressive heat or the pressures of daily life.
We’ll be taking a little break for September but back with gusto in October. In the meantime, it’s a delight, as ever, to share one of J’s stunning poems – this one on a suitably summary theme.

Cockleshells and Bluebells (a poem by J)

Aurora wafts the summer’s plume
And the suburbs are again in bloom
Vibrant hues and fragrance sublime
Hip hip hoorah it’s summer-time.
It’s alright in blooming Westbury
Where the white horse prances light and fairy
Things are grey on the estuary
Our lives here are sedimentary
Sitting here we hide beneath the tides
And keep our beauty deep inside
Overlooked but not forlorn
We shimmer with colours of nacreous dawn
For in halcyon days and heavy weather
“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.”

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Doorway Writing Group June 2018

Doorway Writing Group June 2018

This month’s session was comparatively busy. A grand total of seven guests engaged with the word searches and a selection of the crossword clues. At the writing table, the topic of adult literacy classes came up and we discussed how fiendishly difficult the spelling system is in English. Three of us then went on to have an interesting conversation about languages which use different scripts e.g. Russian, Arabic and Mandarin Chinese.
To round off our session, J finished off a poem for us: read on and enjoy!
Till next time!

Blakehill Nature Reserve*(a poem by J)
The war is over
The wildlife returns,
Barrage balloons untethered
To the tune of a lark.
Sentry posts deserted
The fence post only
For the short-eared owl
And the gathering dark.
Amongst the criss-cross traces
of the old runways
hares sport, klaxons fade to corncrakes
and curlew
The war is over,
But the battle
for the survival of the species
goes on.

*Blakehill Farm is a nature reserve near Cricklade on land which was used as an airfield during WWII.

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Doorway Writing Group May 2018

Doorway Writing Group May 2018

The wordsearches on the sights of London and different types of sports were fairly popular this month and our crossword served to challenge and baffle a number of our guests and volunteers in customary fashion. Most of us could name – and speak about – the ‘breed of dog with short legs and a long body’ (dachshund) and the ‘game in which one player vaults over the back of another’ (leapfrog) but none of us – shame on us! – knew the name of the first African winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. We do now though: Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian playwright and poet. I’ve just looked him up, in fact, and the Wiki entry mentioned a recurrent theme of his: ‘the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the colour of the foot that wears it.’ That sounds profound and thought-provoking; maybe I should look up one or two of his poems to bring along to the next writing group. Watch this space!
We had some intriguing little discussions at the writing table including the significance of different colours. Is green or yellow the colour of hope? Does blue represent faith? We spoke about whether we prefer to write on plain or lined paper and if the latter, do we write on or across the lines? Do we conform or rebel? Should we sometimes write backwards or upside down even, in order to challenge our brains? Plenty of food for thought!
We wound up by speaking about spring and other seasons, at which point J set to writing us another of his wonderful poems: enjoy!

Spring (a poem by J)

It starts on the ground, somewhere
two weeks, continual rain,
the morning the sun returns
green appears in tufts and splashes
and the verges explode with blossom
and the springtime mantle
of leafy splendour.
Life is exuberant, bustling
the sky full of birds
the bushes full of birdsong.
The earth is singing
hope is flourishing
the sun is shining
warmth and light returning
the seasons’ prime.

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Public Property

Homeless and vulnerable people are not public property!

Just saying …..


I’m living on the street, that does not make

Me yours to feed with food I do not eat

Though I may lay my hat before your feet

My history is not your tale to take.


I’m old, I’m poor, I’m ill, I haven’t got

A pot to piss in, or a welcome mat

You still don’t get to patronise, or pat

My head as if you think I’ve lost the plot.


I’m pregnant, I’m in prison, I’m alone

I’m lost, I’m frightened in a foreign land

I’m vulnerable, but not, you understand

Your bitch. My mind and body are my own.


So touch me not, nor tell my tale for me

For I am not your public property.


© Gail Foster 17th May 2018


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Doorway Writing Group April 2018

Doorway Writing Group April 2018
This month’s word searches on wild birds and wild flowers proved quite popular and opened up a few interesting conversations: had anyone ever seen a guillemot and what did one even look like? A number of guests helped with the crossword clues shared around the tables. We also experimented with sharing a poem – this month in the form of a fun, thought-provoking one by the inimitable Steve Turner called quite simply ‘I like words’; guests and volunteers were encouraged to think about whether they had a favourite word (which they could, if they liked, share on a post-it as material for a story or poem).
At the writing table, we discussed ways of capturing those mad, creative ideas as they occur to us: scraps of paper, post-its, a notebook (and of course a pencil) in your pocket etc. J had been experimenting with jotting things down on his phone and had even tried putting a whole story on there recently which he managed to transfer to mine. Here then for your enjoyment is another lovely little gem from J. Happy reading and till next month!

A short story by J

Abie sat on the platform bench at Valeford railway
station and looked up at the electronic timetables
hanging overhead. The train she was waiting for was
expected in 20 minutes.
On time. She resumed casually flicking through the
pages of her magazine before folding it and putting
it back in her shoulder bag. She looked around at
the passengers around her, casual strangers. Safe
and anonymous, her thoughts untethered like an old horse
in a lonely field.
A few miles away the train rolled through the
familiar countryside: Hedges and livestock, houses
and cars on the forecourt. Ernie watched the passing
vista with a resigned expression watching the blur of
the rail bed upon which the rails seemed to float
searching for that distant elusive vanishing point.
Thinking made Ernest tired, and eyelids drooping he
rested his head on his forearm.
The anxious youth with curly dishevelled hair
looked over his shoulder at the old man nodding off
across the aisle and resumed rummaging through
the contents of the rucksack upright on the floor by
his side. He worried about meeting his folks at
Valeford; the term at university had been a disaster
he could no longer keep secret, so many problems
he couldn’t even begin to deal with. He sighed then
he too closed his eyes.
Twenty minutes passed. The groups of people waiting
on the platform thinned. Abie looked up again and
blinked. The train due to arrive, her train, had
vanished! No record of it was on the board. What
could she do?
The train kept on travelling while Ernie dreamed
of all the train journeys he’d taken in his youth on
weekends laughing with friends, short journeys, long
journeys, journeys to places he knew he would
never return to, places he refrequented again and
again all became one dizzying blur. The young man
dreamt of an old man staring out of the window,
troubles vanished with the passage of years the
vanishing point still ahead, always ahead …….
Ernie woke with a start as the mystery train
pulled into the station. He reached down for his
rucksack and observed from his sleeve HE WAS
raced towards the doors and they slid open.
Abie waved and hugged the figure descending
onto the platform. “You’re very late,” she beamed.
“I’m very….” Ernie stuttered.
The train pulled out of the station while the
confused guard stared at the abandoned rucksack
and the two empty seats.

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