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Writing from Home Rutland hosted writers from across the county and adjoining Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. Rutland may be the smallest county in England, but our writers have demonstrated an enormous generosity of spirit in their sharing of ideas, feedback and support for each other in the group. Jeanne Rae, Nicola, Davinder, Karen, Maya, Peter, Barbara and Philippa came together to explore their own sense of home, real spaces and imagined spaces. They took inspiration from pieces of jewellery, childhood memories, family members, special safe places and unforgettable journeys. And they have produced some extraordinary creative work.



"I have really enjoyed the creative writing course. Helen Foster has been an amazing, inspiring tutor and the group has been enjoyable, positive and incredibly interesting..."

Workshop participant, Rutland

Polaroid Postcard
Maya Stigner

To the old Polaroids in their worn cardboard sleeves, I thank you. Thank you for reminding me of the happy life I’ve had. Thank you for showing me the chairs, shelves, sofas and lamps I know so well, where they used to stand in other rooms, other buildings, other cities.

Thank you for bringing back to life the royal blue patterned scrap of carpet I walked on the landing for 25 years and the peacock feather printed sofa before they faded in colour and from my memory. Thank you for not fading as so many Polaroids do. Thank you for keeping alive a house that is gone, broken and rebuilt as the family that once lived in it was. Thank you for stitching us all back together.

Thank you for showing me where my memories and inspirations come from. Stored in an imagined room of home in my mind which I can enter whenever I want to, wherever I am.

I have used lockdown to unearth some long forgotten old family photographs. Some I have never seen, taken before I was born and some of my childhood home. Going through these memories I have had many wonderful conversations with my parents and their families over cups of tea and video chats about the stories the photos hold. It has brought us all closer together and we remember that our lives and homes were happy ones.

Maya Postcard 1

Maya Postcard 2

The Library
Maya Stigner

The door opens and she takes a deep, long breath as she steps into the space which I hold for her. She runs her eyes over my shelves, followed by her fingers, pulling titles, opening covers and then sliding them back. A wanderer lost, searching and grooming through my spines.

I flood her senses with paper dust particles which dance in the sunbeams warming and guiding her to ease into my soft armchair. This is my job, to help calm her and remove the clouds which gather in her aura, to allow thoughts to untangle and drift over the rooftops out of my window. This is my purpose, to provide a refuge, a space to be herself. I would wait patiently, empty and silent, for a hundred days for the one day when she returns and sinks into me.

Once the world has unwound out of her, the knots pulled out, we set voyage and escape on the backs of the hundred stories I give to her.

I am a room of other worlds. My flimsy unlocked door holds fast and firm against anyone who tries to get in while she travels to places only I can provide. I am a vessel, a safe ship she can sail away in and I wait in harbour until our next voyage.

It has always been a dream to have a room of my own full of books. After reading A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf I managed to build a library to hold my collection. I built it all myself, I painted, put up the shelves and unpacked all the books on my own, the first room I ever decorated. It is the room I miss the most when I am away and the room which has been my lockdown haven so it was fitting to write about it in the workshop themed A Room of One’s Own and to bring the space to life.

Davinder Purewal

Dear House

Thank you for sharing all my memories and keeping me safe. From times of joy to times of sadness, I vhave leaned on your walls finding a space to laugh or cry. The room where I sat watching the grubby shrubs, the room where many candles have been lit and laughter struck. The room where I have had moments of tears hidden by a solid door before me, the room which required a little kindness and care. Thank you for accepting the blows awakening you in triumph of everlasting footballs bouncing off your mighty walls. Yes, looking back at each brick, I sense the safety net that holds me tight.

Yours gratefully

A humble owner

When it comes to gratitude, I find it is the most simple of things I am grateful for. A home no matter how big or small, no matter how shiny or not, just four walls which can hold you up and be there when you least realise it.

200 Miles North
Davinder Purewal

The cold air swept against my face as I took a brisk walk, each step felt like a mighty jump as I left a footprint in the sinking mud. The light dimmed as I drew closer to the thick rims of the trees, feeling the bristles brushing against me. The path before me was soft but sturdy, enough to indulge myself to run along it wishing to lift up towards the sky.

I embraced its beauty once again, the tall dark evergreens shadowing the high hill tops, my eyes widened as the hustle and bustle of my life slowed behind me. The tell-tale signs of stone-worn houses showed generations of history which began a journey for many. Sunniside certainly lived up to its name, the sunnier side of life was the place to be.

I always knew when I reached the peak, the grey buildings in the distance did not seem so tall anymore. I stopped to embrace the moment, the quiet, the freedom. I looked ahead trying to capture the steeple in the distance as I knew it sat next to the college, the park, the shops, the museums I once attended. So many years had gone by, yet I longed to reflect upon the past, feeling its presence as if I was there once more.

On a good day if you were lucky, you could see a deep blue line not so far away, the smell of the sea air was always there. The misty sky and the smooth outline of each cloud above, followed by the gleaming sunlight rays flickering through the dark bracken beneath me, glistening. The grey clouds hovering over, creating an eerie feel as the North wind blew howling by.

It’s funny, I never forgot the bus number X30, oh yes, a bus that travelled the long treacherous road with its unpredictable twists and turns, amidst the woods that never came to an end. The rustle of bags and rattling seats occupied by the North East accent did not go unnoticed. The bus I once leapt onto and leapt off too soon, had led me to walk an hour uphill on the long road which had broken the woods in half.

The long road led to a once busy railway track, no longer there, with its rustic view; the derelict railway was now lost in the overgrown greenery surrounded by the awkward silence, a silence which was certainly unknown, a silence which was not to be broken. Like a magical forest without a sound, I’d stroll along it, no care in the world. I imagined the train that once upon a time ago ran its course with coal on its back, the days where mining was at its prime.

Each village nearby fought to be the best there was, with churches filled with forthcoming events, competition between coffee shops, public houses and greengrocers. All except one. The mining village next door was small and fragile as if it had lost something which could never be replaced. With a few houses running along each side, it left no pleasure to reside nor did it indulge any newcomers.

Inspiration to write about the Journey through my hometown: “200 Miles North” is long overdue. Reflecting on the surroundings I grew up in, it is inevitable that the memories and experiences shaped me into the person I am today. The people and their words were inspiring to grow up around, teaching me it does not matter where you start, it’s where you’re going that matters.

Dear walking boots
Barbara Fairhurst

You never let me down and you are so smart. No matter how muddy I let you get you always come up smiling and shiny, grateful for my attention. You have taken me to wonderful places. I know you don’t like my car as you impede my feet on the pedals, maybe you are impatient to get to the desired place and take over transport duties.

When I pull you on and lace you up you give me such comfort and energy. We have walked everywhere together: on the beach, up mountains, through the snow. We even went on an aeroplane together to Canada.

You are quite stylish in your own way, shiny brown leather with familiar dents and folds. I bought you in an outdoor activity shop in Hull. You seemed to beckon me from the vast array of your companions. Now our walking is restricted like never before we still share the outside and the promise of pleasures to come.

Your grateful companion

Barbara Fairhurst

Angel Wings
Karen Hurst

The Heart-shaped Angel wings
are Dazzling, hypnotized and drew me in.
Seeing the loving, protecting, gentleness
with me inside. I am the pearl and crystal.

Loving the dazzling, hypnotizing way it draws me,
it’s the wings of love,
with me inside, the shiny pearl and crystal,
connecting us all as one.

This heart, these wings are love,
reminds me of gratitude, evolving, appreciating,
connecting us all as one.
We are home with love’s gifts.

With gratitude, growing, appreciating,
as love is peaceful, kind and gentle.
We are home with love’s gifts
in the heart-shaped Angel Wings

The idea of writing this pantoum came from me buying a heart-shaped necklace, which I adored at first sight. The heart is formed from an angel’s wings.

The Scent of a Mother
Nicola Green

My eyes, boring into an embroidered elephant,
tracing the shape over and over in my mind.
Sparkling sequins and vibrant orange tones.

Then shifting my gaze to the wooden dolls,
huddled in the corner of the shelf.
Chatting and conspiring together, wrapped in old-fashioned head scarves.

Barely noticing the music.
So familiar it blends into the background,
yet is such a part of the space.

With its jumble of notes, matching my insides.
Thoughts and tunes wandering all over the place,
in sync together.

Smelling the warming cherry blossom oil.
Comforting and soothing; the scent of a mother.
Bringing feelings of safety and contentment.

Nervous excitement to be back here.
Hopes of being met and needs fulfilled,
all conjured up in perfume.

Reaching out to cool, smooth hands,
wrapping around mine.
Enveloping me with love.

Letting me know I can be more than tolerated.
Communicating a thousand words
in one beautiful moment of connection.

Missing Person
Nicola Green

I can feel the anxiety
as she steps through the door,
and notice her little glances,
looking for reassurance.

I am happy to see her come back each week.
I long to give her a sense of safety,
and stillness...and peace.
Yet I don't always get it right.

I try to remain the same,
so as to keep her calm.
But if I wear a new hat, or I dress differently,
it throws her off.

I wish I could tell her
that I am still the same.
I am still a safe place
that she knows.

I hope to provide comfort.
With my sturdy blue sofa
and haphazard cushions:
something tactile for her to hold onto.

I protect her from the noises outside,
which make her jolt.
Playing my familiar background music,
to soothe her with its regularity.

I have missed her presence for many months now.
I wonder when she will return to see me again?
I am still here, waiting;
although I am changed.

I hope that she remembers me,
as I remember her.
And is not frightened,
when she sees how I have grown.

When asked to think about a room or space where I felt contented and safe, my mind took me to the therapy room where I would usually go for weekly sessions. I have been unable to visit the room over the past year and I know that it has been redecorated since I was last there. These two pieces of writing show the different perspectives: my view of the room as I remember it, and how the room perceives me. Writing in this way brought up a lot of emotion, visualising the room and then considering how we have both changed during our time apart. This was my favourite week of the project because the activities we did sparked ideas for writing which really meant something to me. There also felt like a lot of connection between us as a group in this session.

The Geography of the House
Peter Jupp

On the landing where the bannisters divide

where doors of main- and guest- room meet

a place for calling children down from play

a place for greeting those laid overlong in bed

a place to confront miscreants

and from the bathroom, scents of alien shampoo.

Our retreat from London, a private unmolested world

a village home, a place with kitchen, study, garden,

our postcode hinted at a site of borders,

with Northants nudging Rutland, Cambs and Lincs,

jigsaw pieces lacking the wider pattern of their lid.

Before the clock struck seven, a cousin phoned from California,

her time-line eight hours ahead, her bed-time.

Her television channels all monopolised.

A Paris car crash. A wandering Princess dead.

No premonitions then of the Mall packed with mourners,

of Palace gates besieged by banks of slowly fading flowers,

of brothers far too young to walk behind a gun-carriage,

We knew Athene’s mother, now the Abbey would repeat her Ode.

The tremor of Sovereignty, an avalanche of reputations,

a nation’s private griefs aroused like revenants.

Our guest, with Windsor Castle links, should be told.

A knock. A pause. An eyebrow raised.

His first response: ‘A pretty bowl of cucumbers.’

You'd asked us to tell of a room in our home. I could draw a memory of value from every one, current or former: rooms of delight and of sadness, of schedule or surprise, of privacy or hospitality. Then I grasped, the spaces in between offered equal promise. I chose the first floor landing as the most fruitful space for encounters.

El Diccionario Invisible
Philippa Law

A dusty, worn book of words.
This tattered, coverless book,
sits secretly on its cheerful bookshelf.
Silently, undisturbed, overlooked for years.

Este libro, tattered and coverless.
Open its pages and it springs to life.
Silenciosamente, undisturbed, overlooked for years,
its words become interesting conversations.

Abre las páginas and it springs to life.
Its conversations evolve into experiences,
more words become conversaciones interesantes.
Experiences become stories for those who wish to hear.

Sus conversaciones evolve into experiences.
Secretamente it sits sobre la estantería animada.
Las experiencias become stories para los que quieren oír.
Mi diccionario español polvoriento y desgastado.

I created this poem from a free writing exercise using ‘a favourite object from the home’ as a starting point. My Spanish dictionary was given to me 30 years ago and has been with me to every house I have lived in since then, in the UK and abroad. Spanish is such an important part of my life and I realise that, whilst I haven’t used the book for many years, it always sits on the bookshelf, almost invisible yet with great significance.

El Diccionario Invisible

Before my Dad
Jeanne Rae

You stare out from the wall,
Your gaze steady and cool.
Muted colours, painted in posthumously, make you look strangely corpse like,
Your mouth an unnatural pink gash on a familiar jutting chin.
Your foot is at a jaunty angle, resting on some stranger’s steps. your mother watching on, God forbid.
Hollow eyed and sad, two sons’ missing and her baby in a uniform.

My grandmother gave me this picture of the boy born before my dad,
I refused to believe it was you
Thrown off by the uncertainty of the boy-man
Now I recognize the appraising look, the muscular arms
Then, I saw a stranger.


My first object was a picture of my dad, taken when he was around 17 and about to go off to war, joining his three brothers who were already serving. A photographer told me that these photos were taken as many poorer families didn’t have cameras and the government wanted to provide a memento in case the serviceman or woman did not return. Colour was added after, giving the photo a slightly ethereal look. This picture hung on the wall of my paternal grandmother’s house. As a child I refused to believe it was my dad, as by the time I ‘knew’ him he was a short, very rotund man in his late 30s. I never met this version of him.

My Nan’s Handbag
Jeanne Rae

I wasn’t always this way. You see only disrepair and decay but I was made to be noticed. Hard to believe that once I dazzled and shone. An object of envy, gathering admiring glances as I waltzed around glittering ballrooms, a thousand candle reflections firing out from my glass beads. Look closely and you’ll see my edges are rough, the sequined mirrored glass smokey. Inside I am ripped, torn where excited hands thrust lipstick and powder carelessly into my fine silk interior.

The night that conjured you into being, I caught the eye of a handsome young soldier. He came over to say hello. The rest, as they say, is history. But I wasn’t always this way. Before your fat child’s fingers pulled me all out of shape, I knew the woman you never will. Her unpainted face, trouble writ large behind the public smile. Both of us now softer, and coarsened by age. But we weren’t always this way.

My Nan was ‘a bit of a girl’ by all accounts. I was fifteen when she died, but I didn’t know her well. She supposedly met my Scottish granddad when he was travelling south to join the front during WW1. Tales of her abound in the family. I inherited this bag, which is of no financial worth but has given me endless hours of speculation on its history.

Jeanne Rae

I wasn’t always this way
I waltzed around glittering ballrooms
I was made to be noticed
I was there the night that conjured you into being.

I waltzed around glittering ballrooms
Now shoved into a draw with the rest of that life
I was there the night that conjured you into being.
I knew the woman you never will

Now shoved into a draw with the rest of that life
I saw the unpainted face, the tears and the smiles
I knew the woman you never will
I was once soft but now coarsened by age

I saw the unpainted face, the tears and the smiles
I was made to be noticed
I was once soft but now coarsened by age
I wasn’t always this way

Composting, a Life
Jeanne Rae

Helen talked to us about the many and various things that we could use as ‘compost’ for our writing. This struck a chord with me, out of which came this:

The mulched down early soil,
Dark and dank now,
Seemingly lacking in promise,
But the later blooms owe their flowers to this.

Random, rotten peelings,
Past their tasty best,
Seemingly chaotic,
Become the seeds of a strange and unknowable future.

And what is compost without manure?
It stinks the place up,
But oh, the nutrients that seep into your soul,
When it all turns to shit.

They call this autumn?
I’m enjoying the view,
Seemingly a blaze of technicolour,
From the top of the compost heap.

I am River, I flow on
Jeanne Rae

In the blink of an oar
In the wash of a wave
In one tide or two,
People are gone but I flow on.

The men in long ships
Row into my cities
Where are they now?
Buried in tidal sand.

The kings of France
And the sons of Rome
Thought they would subdue my tide
But my watery kingdom endures.

Henry’s sad-faced Anne
Every swish of the oars a tidal ripple closer to death
Her head on the block, history changed forever
But I flow on.

From water-soaked meadows to a mighty estuary
I flow on.

I grew up in Reading, very close to the River Thames, and it has always had a special place in my heart. I’ve walked its banks with pretty much every person I have ever loved and/or cared about. Between 2016-18 I achieved an ambition by walking the Thames Path with some special friends. We finished the walk by kayaking from Battersea to Woolwich, under the Thames Barrier.

A Hidden Room (Writing Prompt)
Jeanne Rae

I almost tripped over the snowshoes by the door. Which is not surprising as they were the last things I expected to find in a beach hut. To be truthful, the last thing I actually expected to find was the beach hut, given that it suddenly appeared behind a door on my balcony… which is on the tenth floor… of a council flat in Hackney. The skis were a surprise too. I stood there like a ventriloquist’s dummy, slowly opening and closing my eyes whilst simultaneously muttering under my breath...’What the...’. Slightly dizzy with it all I stumbled again, breaking my fall by grabbing the bureau behind the door. A weathered diary fell with me, proclaiming itself the property of Captain Cassidy. Captain John Cassidy. My grandfather. Missing in action since 1917.

Jeanne Rae

Terry. Hair slicked back and dressing sharp. Looked like Elvis to me. For years I thought he was. Boys on their motorbikes gathered outside our house, engines running, full strength capstans dangling from pouty lips. They were ‘off to Butlers’, its brown-glass tinted windows hiding such mysteries from this child. Early morning the doors would fling open and sour smells escape as dirty looking sawdust made its way to the gutter. Huge dray horses fidgeted kerbside whilst strong looking men with bare arms and leather jerkins tugged up the huge iron doors bolted into the cellar floor. Barrels rolled clinking and clanking in and out of its bowels. Years rolled by. The council, intent on expensive office space, knocked down all the buildings between Butlers and our house. But we wouldn’t budge. There we stood, like the last two browning teeth in a decaying old mouth. Battles were fought for years, but those barrels still roll in and out of the cellar. In my dad’s funeral limousine – idling outside in bad traffic – we paid homage to the legend that was Butlers pub.


I was born in a Victorian slum in Reading, with an outside toilet and no bathroom. Up the road from our house was a pub of dubious virtue called Butlers, which my Teddy boy brother, Terry, and his friends frequented. The council tried to enact a compulsory purchase order on all the properties in the street but wouldn’t pay anything additional to the owners of businesses (my dad had a small grocery shop), and the owners refused to move without compensation. After years of fighting - and in a massive ironic twist - it was acknowledged that Butlers had previously had a connection to Reading Abbey (sacked by Henry VIII) and was built on consecrated ground. It could not therefore be the object of a compulsorily purchase. Butlers is still there, and this story never fails to make me laugh. It connects me to home and family on so many levels.


Letter to my LPs.
Jeanne Rae

As various people close to me died I inherited their vinyl record collections. I neither like nor listened to the majority of these and recently acknowledged that a cull was needed. In the process of deciding what stayed and what went each record kept had to justify its place.

Dear LPs, Sorry about all the recent moving about. I know it has been a bit disruptive, and some friends and close neighbours have disappeared, but it was all for a good purpose. You, you who remain, you are the chosen ones, the golden days of my misspent youth, the earliest memories of notes floating out from the wireless – British Forces Posted Overseas – Buddy Holly – the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. You hold the key to my heart – easily broken at fifteen – when I would listen to Roxy Music, Pink Floyd and Jimmy Hendrix as I got ready to make my increasingly dismal journey to school. Paul Simon, you – you and Art – along with Neil Young and Bob Dylan took me to a country, a time and a political landscape I hadn’t ever visited or considered, beginning a lifelong love of America.

You may have felt a bit sidelined over the years, as my affections seemed to flow towards your younger tape and digital replacements. Fear not. Every scratch and groove is a night out, a night in, a friend or a loved one, a trauma, a tantrum or a terrifically good time. I’ve thinned you out to be the very best of times. Here’s to you. Long may we party,

All the Jeannes through all the years.

Going Home in a Dream

Head down the hill on a tin tray sled all the way the bottom, where the tarred road that skins your knees crumbles to gravel and scrub. To the horse chestnut tree to find an uncracked conker in its case on the ground. Pick it up. Clench it in an ungloved fist until the prickles bite.

Hide in the long grass a while. Let the pain fade, the flow of blood slow and clot to scabs. As quiet as you can. Don’t let the Giant who throws stones hear you. And when the sun starts to slide down the slope of the sky, run. Kick off your shoes and let hot concrete burn your bare soles as you pelter down the lane.

To the ninth house along. The familiar whine of the gate mimicking the long-dead dog buried in the garden. Snowdrops still marking the grave. The front window, a black mirror to gaze into. To search for yourself. You’ll only see the old lined face of your mother looking back at you, a glint of recognition as she sees herself.

This prose poem came out of recurring dreams I sometimes have in which I return to the village I was born and brought up in. The dreams are fragmented, the seasons all mixed up. I revisit childhood haunts and there’s a sense of surrealism, nonsense and fairytale.


I have very much enjoyed the project and working with you. Thanks so much for these sessions. And please forward my email address on to the rest of the group. Some members mentioned staying in touch and I’d very much be up for that.

I have thoroughly enjoyed every workshop, it has helped so much and set much inspiration. I've learnt so much and would like to improve my writing. Furthermore, we have a beautiful group who are so talented, it's been lovely to meet everyone.

I so look forward to these inspirational sessions every week. I do hope we will have the chance to do something similar again in the future. Thank you to everyone who had made these workshops happen, they have been invaluable especially during these difficult days of Lockdown.

I have really enjoyed the creative writing course. Helen Foster has been an amazing, inspiring tutor and the group has been enjoyable, positive and incredibly interesting.

Thank you for offering us the chance to experience this course via Zoom.

I’ve really enjoyed the project thank you and it has really inspired me to take a more focused approach to my writing