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May 2002
Mottistone Manor
Isle of Wight

October 2002
High Force
Upper Teesdale
County Durham

Cover of 'Rewriting the Map'

Vane Women of the North East and Shore Women of the Isle of Wight have produced a joint anthology of poetry Rewriting the Map (See Press for the Press to order). The book was launched in October 2003. This is the end of a journey that began with a meeting at the Poet's Table in Portugal . . . The story of that meeting and notes of our exchange visits in May and October 2002 are below. North and South have never been on such good terms!

Samples of work in progress by Vane Women during the collaboration are posted here. Not all were finally selected for the book.

Photographs taken on the visits are by Pat Maycroft.



projects through
the tent of the Downs,
the exposed tent pole of the big top,
pitched here on the island. Taut canvas stripes
of cobalt bluebell blue, campion pink and beech green,
are stretched and pegged at Mottistone to the blue ground of the sea.
Seduced, we ride the rays, slide down these pathways patched in rags of sunlight,
sit somnolent in the spring, smelling sage-sorrel-rosemary-rue in the herb garden,
surprised by the red squirrel who skitters as joyously, more deftly, on the same roll.

Dorothy Long




(Upper Tees in full spate)

Under turquoise skies and an optimistic sun
the river is roller-coasting, hell-bent for the sea,
helter-skeltering over the edge, freefalling
from high; deafening in its urgency,
the water turns to smoke - billowing out
to float as crystal powder to the pool beneath

Like twin towers crashing to earth
floating as dust clouds into the street below

Catching its breath, the river resumes its run,
powering its way over rocks, frothing and foaming,
spinning and spiralling, shifting silt and gravel
to tattoo its name on the cold river bed -
the magnetic impulse of the sea draws energy
from the hills in an unstoppable flood.

Rattling onwards, it rushes downstream
forcing trees and shrubs to bend in its path
skittering, somersaulting kayaks take their chance
before the lower falls where the molten river
tumbles forth to shimmer in the sunlight
as diamonds spilling from a jeweller's velvet pouch.

Lindsay Balderson




On't hills by misen t'day wit bliddy yows. Yon lile un's bin nowt but a bother sin his mam deead. Pap fed 'is bin an' still as daft as a bucket. Sithee, lile un.What'll happen thee if't Norsemen come a'vikin an a ravigin? Can tha' scamper away by thisen? T'others 'll herd togither but thou daft lile midgit, thou'll race bleatin down't croft an' show wer't geese is kept.

If th' come I's'll hide thee in me cloak, but what if th' strike me 'ead off fust, I's'll fall on thee an' squish thee flat as a cow pat, lile bleater.

Me mam ses thir far away up 't Carlisle but our Edwin meks us frit wi' tales o' rape an' blood eagles. That ud be a sight t' see, yon gurt bully Aelfric clarted all ower't church wall.

I's'll hide int' barley field, nay th' mun burnt't, I's'll hide in't midden.


dung heap
Blood eagles
torture performed by the Vikings on their victims

Margaret Rule




In the corner near the window seat you sit
silent and immobile, sending shiver
of shock through friends who pop in to visit
and forget you're there.

You are stuffed. Your belly a soft pillow,
no substance to your woolly arms, your wasted legs.
A mock-up in a tie-dye scarf
and fleecy gloves.

Let's face it, you are never
going to come into the garden,
feet planted firmly in those slippers. Fixed
as you are to that chair.

Your time is up, you'll have to be
dismantled. Your clothes returned
to rightful owners, pillows and cushions
put back to bed.

Marilyn Longstaff




for Barry MacSweeney

To find the quartz in your valley
I must make sure it's raining,
a settled rain of fluent chiming
like a rivulet from the fells,

follow the course over dead gravel
onto the marbled slab of the river,
wade upstream through erosion of rocks
where the glacier picked

its way not carefully from hills,
where waterfalls hang from pillars
like tresses of naiads' hair
yet fracture in drops like facets

of stone. I must travel up where
the low cloud skirts and
water clatters in the cold beck.
It is there the quartz glitters.

It will gleam rose and cloudy pearl
among your tumblestones.
It has to be dislodged
from wild continuous chatter,

an ore of a kind, in the high up
bubbling seed bed of the river.
The mist will come down, closing
the fell in loose gauze fetters

as I immerse my hand
into the pain of spring water,
all winter's chill collected
like bundled barbed wire.

Up to the wrist the water will boil
near to freezing. I will prize
free the sharp gem prickles,
so like ice, from its setting.

If you had a heart it would be
this quartz, if you had a body
it would be this water, slipping
into the tidal reaches of the Tyne.

S.J. Litherland




Pink pebbles lie on the hard smooth slab
and the sea laps them gently.
Bird feet fret the sand
grained from past pebbles rubbing
smoothing shards to mica-glint
gleaming in the sun like shattered
fragments of the sea-path glare.

Pink pebbles are carried
by strong currents
from broken slabs incised by ice.

Uniqueness lost in union
becomes individual once more
grain upon grain
until seasons and times change to aeons
and the process is begun again.
Pink pebbles lie on the hard smooth slab.

Anne Hine




When people ask him
why he makes besoms the traditional way,
still slaves so hard in the Northumbrian forest
the way his father did
and his grandfather did,
he mumbles something about Harry Potter
and how orders are well up this year.

He doesn't say anything
about the whispering in the wood as the rings stir,
how he's called by them
curling and uncoiling
as he thumbs the besom shaft,
how he adds splinters for spice as requested.

He can't describe
their eyes, blue, so blue,
their hair boiling in berries and leaves.
How they wear black cloud
and wind stars round their ankles,
how they caress him as he works,
impatient for him to finish.

He forgets to mention
their sweet-succulent vein-flesh fusion,
how he longs to paint their nails with blue polish
and to lie with them in hot moist grass.
They show him their tight muslin dresses, cross-breasted in gold
and allow him to taste bitter chocolate
as he traces the tattooed spells on their forearms.

He makes no reference to
the time he was late for an order.
How they showed him
the way they could suck off faces with a look
and peel off souls as easy as shelling peas.

He keeps silent
about when he can read the angry scuttering in the leaves,
how the brooms hiss as they touch them,
how they shimmer.
The noises they can make when they are excited.
Where he bears their mark.

Diane Cockburn




Edge of land once hard against the sea
now crumbling into foam,
swish, swoosh, shatter,
tumbling crags into salty water.

Quarried by a creeping sea.

This metamorphic rock,
pummelled and sliced, tipped
and tossed into the sea, is

gritty to taste
and spat back.

Pat Maycroft




this boulder, dropped here
through a hole in my pocket, would be
the size of a plumstone to me

rough-hewn to you
to me smooth as a pebble
tossed from hand to hand

and tossing it
I'd stride in my seven-league boots
from cliff to cliff, kicking down scree

searching for another boulder
so I could play fivestones,
longstones, knucklebones

but from up here
with my head in the opal sky
all I can see is the lozenge of emerald

which is the Island.

Joanna Boulter




Stealthily, sideways, I creep towards him:
oh, those handsome legs, that fearless head,
the effortless span of vast wings.
I edge carefully, while his colour roars
into the autumn wind. I cannot face him.

Perfectly poised, massively square, he performs
a ballet anchored to the earth. One glance
and I'm turning away, shoulders shuddering.

Such solid elegance. So soaringly grounded,
he speaks to the land, the blue sky, the clouds,
of something other than nature, while the sun
explodes in astonishment before him.

Vicki Thomas




After 200 wearisome years of being bumped, jogged and dumped
the length and breadth of the true North,
up and down the old A1, across the Pennine Way
coast to unending coast, Cuthbert's bones had had enough.
From Lindisfarne to Kelso, Edinburgh to Ormesby, Cockermouth
to York by way of Darlington and Ripon, there's a limit
to the number of churches one wants raised in one's name.
The worms long since given up and gone, all he wanted
was cessation, deep eternal rest for profoundly weary bones.
But how to signal this to clerics whose lifetime pilgrimage
was this? No place apparently the place to call a final halt.

Today trees that might be great great grandchildren of saplings
Cuthbert's bones passed by, tower loftily,
shimmer gold leaf on the Wear below the loftier,
impossibly man-made towers of the cathedral,
built where his bones refused to budge. As mine would,
as mine, had I all this to remain within forever -
resting-place that, in this moment, upstages heaven.

Annie Wright



It all started around the Poet's Table in Portugal where Marilyn Longstaff of Vane Women met Pat Murgatroyd and Lydia Fulleylove of Shore Women. A plot was hatched to bring the two sides in contact. It is a real tribute to the tenacity of the original plotters and the subsequent teamwork that the book was produced and enjoyed a double launch.

MAY 2002

Vane Women went en bloc to the Isle of Wight over the May Bank Holiday weekend, guests of Lydia Fulleylove and Pat Murgatroyd and their group of women writers.
We can report we had a marvellous time with Shore Women. We stayed at a grand manor house and were pampered with log fires, wonderful food (cooked by Shelley, Harriet et al) and extra-curricular partying in the evening. They took us on walks over the Downs, through bluebell woods and even for a dip in the sea (Distinctly chilly).
Don't think for a moment that the visit was a soft option . . . Shore Women are tough on exercise, and we are talking creative writing exercises. We had daily sessions which set the pace for the hard work ethic of the weekend. We came away with a great respect for their discipline and diligence.
Vane Women did contribute to the party spirit. We danced unflaggingly to Abba and other retro tapes and even created a new dance technique based on remembering Esther Williams swimming routines from old Hollywood movies. This entailed lying on the floor in a circle and slowly "swimming" round to form a flower shape. (Perhaps best to draw a veil over it - Ed.)


A staggeringly grand weekend was spent with Shore Women of the Isle of Wight on their exchange visit - October 24-27. They had wished to see some glories of the North. One of these was upper Teesdale with its great river, Low and High Forces (rapids and waterfalls for the non-Northern of our readers). So off we went in three parties: The Boggers (Boot on Grit), the Gawpers, and the Saunterers.
The advance guard of the Boot on Grit club (Marilyn, Jackie, Margaret, Pat) had spent the previous Sunday reconnoitering the walks and had ended up in a mucky field (the term is literal) and had to negotiate with Cold Comfort Farm to use their highly protected roadway to get back on track.
The Boggers did the biggest trek - up the Pennine Way to High Force then crossing over the Tees to t'other bank (Note Northern elision) and back on the Drover's Road.
The Gawpers had the middle route - along the river to High Force and back - plenty of time to gawp (Northern word for take a long look at).
The Saunterers had a little trip to Low Force and then went by car to High Force.
The previous night it had rained in torrents and enraged the river so much that it was in spate (Northern word for swiftly flowing) (How many more of these? This is a World Wide Word Web! - Ed.)
The sky was blue as a harebell. The river's dark brown peaty water was thrashing and churning in a very satisfactory way. Every stone in its path had a white frilly cuff. And on the water was this mad dazzle of sunlight.
We also took the Shore Women to Durham Cathedral and the Angel of the North. Weather was fine for that visit too. The Force was with us, one way or another.
We had several joint creative writing workshops and lots of wonderful food mainly provided by superb chef Wendy Iliff.
Darlington Arts Centre was our base camp and seemed to produce coffee, snacks etc. at just the right moment. Somebody must have been the Programme Supremo! (Dot Long - Ed)
We sent them off home with wonderful memories of the North. On this day the South was obviously jealous of all the appellations given to the North by Shore Women: grand, tempestuous, etc. and it took them 29 hours to reach the Isle of Wight courtesy of GNER andVirgin non-trains.

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Last updated on 11 April 2006.