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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Quintin’s Story

Journey into the Unknown

After half a century of hard work and failed relationships, life was to come crashing down around me. Unforeseen circumstances and dubious decisions, on my part, led to my complete mental breakdown and suicide attempt some 3 years ago. Insane working hours and impossible deadlines mixed with an extremely volatile marriage had overcome my inner strength. My entire life had been torn apart and thrown to the wind. Everything that I had worked for over many years was gone, everything.

I was admitted to a high dependency psychological hospital and spent the next 6 months being sedated, treated and prepared for my return to society.

Being given sanctuary with my sister and brother in law seemed at the time a saving grace. I moved in with them and started working locally, life was starting to reassemble itself, or so I thought.

18 months after I moved in I was given instructions by my volatile brother in law. I was advised to devise a plan, during the next 4 weeks, and vacate their home and lives. Evidently I had exceeded my welcome.

Luckily I still had my job and my old car. I moved out of their property that very day, not wishing to stay any longer in an aggressive family environment. I started sleeping in my vehicle near my workplace until my boss, a certain Parish councillor and pillar of society, decided to give me the same 4 weeks to come up with a plan and find employment elsewhere. He was my brother in law.

So, in the space of 3 weeks, I had been evicted from my family’s home and lost my job at the family engineering business too, nice.

Initially, being homeless and jobless didn’t phase me, after all that I had been through whilst living with my ex, it had prepared me to cope with major life events.

Being mindful of the future and realising that winter was coming I took advice from Wiltshire Mind, who have weekly self-help group sessions that I attend, since moving to the area. Sadly, the amazing group leader suddenly left their employment not long after I became homeless. She was totally dedicated to her work and was one of those people you never forget.

The day I presented myself to the council offices in Chippenham was also the same day that I passed through Doorway’s entrance.

Not knowing what to expect from the housing officer, at the council offices, I duly filled in all the forms and was informed that I was on my own, no help was forthcoming.

Next stop, Doorway. Unsure of how they could assist I entered the Salvation Army Hall in Chippenham, anxious and hopeful at the same time, to be greeted by complete strangers. After quickly outlining my case I was instructed to collect a hot meal and the paperwork would be dealt with thereafter.

From day one and to this very day Doorway have never questioned or criticised anything concerning myself, they have accepted me, as I am.

In a world largely based on consumerism and finance and the haves and have nots, being treated equally, without question, is very rare indeed.

Slowly I started to become a regular visitor, Monday morning cooked breakfasts are to die for. Hot showers and washing machines made being homeless much easier to digest. I rely on their food parcels to carry me through to the next week, I had no income at that point or savings, I still had not even thought to apply for any financial assistance. After all, I had never claimed for anything before, always believing that I was responsible for myself. I am an aeronautical engineer and have travelled all over Europe and beyond, for my work.

One Thursday lunch time, they had arranged for the council officers to attend, in an informal way, brilliant idea. This was to be pivotal for myself. After several previous visits to the council being fruitless, I was fortunate to discuss my issues with such a humane council adviser, the advice I was given was to change my lot.

Along with the Council, the Citizens Advice Bureau and Doorway, they have all assisted in my transition from being homeless immensely.

All of the staff at The Doorway have helped, a few, more than they can imagine, from the unseen volunteers to the galley slaves, the Char Wallahs and especially the female angels, that float around, waiting to engulf the unwary. The one thing that was and still is today, is that whilst all hell might be going on in one’s private life, Doorway, remains a constant, always there, same people, same welcome and always happy to engage and offer humane advice.

Understanding that life is ever changing and people are to be respected as human beings, accepting change leads to a more deeper calm and inner peace. Once you have reached that blackest point of your life and been lucky to survive, life changes, becomes simpler and easier to accept. Most of what we think is important to us is just cluttering our lives. Whilst each day is not the same as the last and some are not good at all, the struggle is easier to digest with the assistance of loving and humane supporters of life, Doorway.

Thank you for your support and advice, without this, I could not have progressed to where I am today.

Posted in Charity, Chippenham, Guest Profile, Health, Homelessness, Mental Health, News, Uncategorized, Wiltshire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doorway Writing Group March 2018

Writing Group March 2018
A quiet session this month. With temperatures outside bitter and more snow imminent, our guests were understandably preoccupied with thoughts other than creative writing:
No time for a rhyme or a fun anecdote
It’s a hot meal that’s needed, a hat, scarf and coat.

It was also the day of Dean’s funeral which some of our guests had been wanting to attend; since the weather had prevented them from making the trip to Salisbury, a number of his friends – including our most regular writer J – had chosen to have a jam in the music room instead in his honour. R I P Dean!
No original writing then this time but the crossword, word search and word puzzle still proved popular around the different tables with both guests and volunteers. It was also great to see that three guests had borrowed books from our library over the last couple of weeks.
We’ll be back for more reading, writing and word fun in early April. Here’s hoping everyone stays warm and safe!

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