Our fictional characters become so much a part of us, and are so clear and vivid in our minds, that when Mirren passed through Tregaron on her way to Aberaeron recently, she found herself looking for the old Vicarage where Carys from Eight of Cups was brought up. Of course she didn’t find the house itself but the Memorial Hall, the local church dedicated to St Caron and 13th century Talbot Hotel which is supposed to have an elephant buried in its grounds were all there. She enjoyed Welsh cakes and mature Welsh cheddar in the low-ceilinged bar of the hotel.
We’ve long been impressed by the slick organisation and the breadth of talent that seem to exist in rural WI groups of which we’ve visited several as speakers. We might see a room of middle-aged women, discussing days out to craft fairs or local agricultural shows, but there lies only slightly below the surface a rich seam of life experience and artistic expression.
Raglan WI in Monmouthshire, will stand out in our memory for its beautiful prize-winning wall hanging, designed and sewn by its members to mark the Millennium, and for their sharing of incidents from their own lives which might prompt the idea for a novel or autobiography. One member’s father was the first man in the valley to own a car. He was often called on to take pregnant women to the nearest maternity hospital where he would be greeted with ‘Not again Mr X!’ Another had a husband who witnessed 60 years ago the detonation of the atomic bomb tested near Christmas Island in the South Pacific. We were there to entertain them with tales of our writing partnership and readings from our debut novel Eight of Cups which is contemporary women’s fiction. They certainly entertained us back. And then, of course, we enjoyed one of their legendary suppers!