After some years of trying, I feel comfortable saying that we now have a local Lapidus group (www.lapidus.org.uk). I have to qualify 'local', as our members come from far and wide, indeed we thought we might describe our reach by the rivers Humber, Ouse and Tweed.

We met on Saturday to talk about the work we are doing and also to write. I found it a very stimulating, supportive and enriching day, I'd like to thank my fellow writers - who are becoming friends - for making it so. We have ideas for further meetings and even for inspirational trips away. Can't wait.
I was given an ereader - a Kobo - for Christmas and I have been exploring its potentials. I have discovered it is good for reading in bed and while travelling. It is bad for reading poetry (though this appears to depend on how the digitisation has been done) and academic books with end or footnotes.

Like most ereader owners I have been investigating the freebies (though as a writer this slightly goes against the grain as the writer (or his/her estate) presumably doesn't get paid). Most of the free downloads are out of print books which means discovering some volumes I would never have nosed into otherwise.

One such was Famous Women: George Sand by Bertha Thomas, a surprisingly pacy and fresh read given it was written/published in 1883. I also found out more about Sand, a woman I knew more by myth than fact.

This is what she had to say about the revolutionaries/politicians that disappointed her: 'What I see in the midst of the divergencies of all these reforming sects is a waste of generous sentiments and of noble thoughts, a tendency towards social amelioration, but an impossibility for the time to bring forth through the want of a head to that great body with a hundred hands, that tears itself to pieces, for not knowing what to attack. So far the struggles make only dust and noise. We have not yet come to the era that will construct new societies, and people them with perfected men.'

How apt even for today.
I've been enjoying reading The Plot, a biography of my father's English acre, by Madeleine Bunting. Beautifully and evocatively written it combines local and natural history with personal memoir. It also gave an excuse for a bracing walk around Sutton Bank followed by a cosy lunch in a near-by pub.

One extract, in particular, caught my eye, as she describes a time as experiencing: 'dramatic population growth and a new urbanization [which] saw towns and cities expanding rapidly. It was an age of anxiety. ... trade was accelerating. There were repeated laments about the commercialization of human relationships. ... "everyone has their price" was a common and bitter refrain. An unprecedented number of people were on the move, as migrants, pilgrims or vagrants. With these changes came a new impersonality, as strangers became customers and neighbours in the cities. It all caused great insecurity; money was frequently excoriated as a form of pollution. Greed was the great sin of the age...'

Could this be our own (painful for many) present? No, surprisingly, this is the twelfth century and these changes in society caused the Cistercian monks to seek out East Yorkshire to build their isolated and austere abbeys.
Over the festive season I very much enjoyed reading Author, Author by David Lodge. Not wishing, of course, to put myself in the same league as Henry James when it comes to his forté as a writer, I do feel a kinship with his frustration and depression at the luke-warm reception for much of his work.

Writing in the author's voice, Lodge ponders on the reasons for this response to James's literary output: 'Some huge seismic shift caused by a number of different converging forces - the spread and thinning of literacy, the levelling effect of democracy, the rampant energy of capitalism, the distortion of values of journalism and advertising - which made it impossible for a practitioner of the art of fiction to achieve both excellence and popularity, as Scott and Balzac, Dickens and George Elliot, had done in their prime. The best one could hope for was sufficient support from discriminating readers to carry on with the endless quest for aesthetic perfection.' (P348).

How familiar that sounds, and yet Lodge meant it to represent the situation in 1898.

I will finish with James's own words, from his short story, 'The Middle Years':

'We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have.

Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task.

The rest is the madness of art.'


Healing Words: an introduction therapeutic creative writing
This one day experiential workshop will give an introduction to the use of creative writing and poetry both for personal reflection and within a therapeutic space. It is suitable for health professionals who have an interest in writing and for writers who have an interest in working therapeutically. It is a taster for an up-coming Open College Network accredited course.

Tutor: Kate Evans, UKCP registered counsellor, MA in Creative Writing & member of Lapidus (www.lapidus.org.uk)

4th February, 2012, 930am-5pm, at Scarborough Psychotherapy Training Institute (ScPTI), YO12 7QU. £65 (ScPTI members)/£85 (non-members)
Contact: mail@scpti.co.uk