Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Talk at a Women's Institute

Last Wednesday I gave a talk at a Women's Institute on the Wirral (a tongue of land south of Liverpool that links England to Wales). It is an affluent area for the most part.

At 8.00pm, I arrived at the meeting place as instructed. Their meeting was in full-swing so I sat quietly at the back. Eventually a woman came over to me carrying a black canvas bag: 'The projector.' she said.

It was a strange make. I battled through with the wires and connectors and complicated array of buttons until the thing worked. Then shifted around tables until the image was large enough. After the talk - which they seemed to enjoy - I explained that my books were available at the price I'd paid for them and put a few out on a table. No one came close - except a woman with a cup of tea. Then, for some unfathomable reason, she went to pick up the projector.
'I shouldn't touch that yet,' I said, 'you have to wait for the bulb to cool.'
She picked it up anyway.
'No, really, if you move it the bulb will break if it's still hot - and they're expensive to replace.'
She let go of it again.
I drank my tea then packed away my books and computer. Then I wound up the leads, packed the cooled projector back into its bag and then slipped away without many people noticing.

Unfortunately I think I have another talk with a WI in the next few months but I am not sure when or where. I do hope someone rings to remind me. But if they don't I am not going to mind very much.


Blogger superstar said...

life just good

Wed Nov 15, 11:54:00 pm  
Blogger Susan said...

I think you should give yourself a few days off. You're too good for those people!

Thu Nov 16, 07:07:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a strange and dispiriting experience that must have been, Clare. Myself, I would love to hear you talk. I am fascinated by the history of science, by polar explorations and insane asylums, by the slow shifting of paradigms.

And I have to say, your descriptions of madness as seen from the inside in _98 Reasons_ were absolutely some of the best writing I have ever experienced. Further, your wisdom and your kindness infuses everything you write and I think I respond to that as much as to your incredible intelligence and wide-ranging knowledge.

As we say here, Don't let the bastards get you down....

Thu Nov 16, 01:56:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a little quote from Kenneth Patchen that was taped on the end of the poetry shelves at the Bull's Head Bookshop in Chapel Hill, N. C.: "People who say they love poetry and don't buy any are a bunch of cheap sons-of-bitches."

Thu Nov 16, 02:12:00 pm  
Blogger Susan said...

Marly, you said it perfectly! Really. I absolutely agree with you (and Kenneth Patchen) - just wouldn't have had the courage to say it.

Thu Nov 16, 05:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's so nice to have somebody backing up one's rude assertions!

Recovered your equilibrium yet? Hope so.

Show me a writer who hasn't had an evening like this one, and I'll show you a Luck Child.

Thu Nov 16, 05:32:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have they not seen Calendar Girls?
Perhaps that lot are the sort who take their baking very very seriously and never read. Apart from a recipe card...

Thu Nov 16, 06:09:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CFR: yes I think you're right. I've actually done quite a few WIs now with friends (including Jan who sometimes comments here). We just read our work out and some of them are very appreciative and some of them are not. It's incredible how variable they are.

Marly: yes, just about recovered now! You're right it is a common experience for writers. I can give lots more examples. Apparently one that I did is still talked about by librarians around Manchester because it was so embarrassing. Balloons, badges, wine, nibbles and 40 people had expressed an interest and been given tickets. In the event only one person turned up. There are some that are good though -many more than the bad...

That Patchen quote could apply to works of literary fiction too!

Thank you Susan Balée! You are so very kind. Your comments are much appreciated - especially at the moment. 'Don't let the bastards get you down' is almost what my husband says to me all the time, poor man.

Susan: It must be something about the name - thank you, Susan!

And superstar - well I think maybe you came here by mistake - but hello and thanks for visiting.

Thu Nov 16, 10:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your husband is not a "poor man", he's a man of grounded intellect. (And do tell him I said so! I'm still trying to earn Brownie points, even at this late age... And I still have the original brown leather belt I can tell you! Such a shame my current waistline cannot accommodate...)
Clare you suffered an audience with "mind on other things".
A Black Forest Roulade? Slightly forgiveable and very understandable.
The forthcoming TV series of "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!"? Slightly forgiveable and not understandable.
Sex, any shape or form, depending on taste? Forgiveable and very understandable, but shame on them for being in the wrong place at the wrong time!
Knickers in a twist? Very forgiveable and very understandable and such a shame they itch.
This month's mortgage payment? Don't go there.
Let the poor souls be, Clare, they were preoccupied with God knows what.
They lost out and not you!

Thu Nov 16, 10:53:00 pm  
Blogger Jonathan Wonham said...

Maybe the problem is that TV is turning more and more people into viewers rather than readers.

I love it when my daughter tells me that she has read a book and enjoyed it.

What about finding younger audiences like school children or uni students?

I remember when I was a student the university used to invite writers to give talks and I often went along.

Fri Nov 17, 01:13:00 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Yes,Clare, it really surprised me just HOW varied WI's are...the women, the venue, the style of the meeting.And I think we've only sung " Jerusalem" once ( or maybe that's because we usually arrive late?? )
" Calendar Girls" by the way is a brilliant film. Julie Walters is her superb self with Helen Mirren excellent too.

Sat Nov 18, 07:30:00 am  

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