Character sketches: Writers retreat
Jono had to lean his head down to engage with the rest of the world. He was a greater feminist than any woman I’ve ever met, and if it wasn’t for his uniform of flip-flops, shorts and tired T-shirts I might have thought he wanted to be a girl. During our five days together I and my fellow bra-wearing guests were regularly put in our place for not thinking well enough of our sex.
We called the tanned one with blonde hair Puddles, because we’d all barely met when he lectured us – somehow at length – that people from Liverpool are called Liverpudlians.
Kat was always forgetting which floor she was on, and the building had three floors. “I’m just going to pop down to the kitchen,” she’d say whilst sitting in the dining room alongside the kitchen.
Lucy’s raison d’être was moments in which she could take charge. And with a large group like ours, we needed a fair bit of corralling. Whether it was determining allergies, handing out worksheets, writing lists, taking a group shot, organising lifts, getting coffee orders, or anything else in need of a fractional leader, Lucy was on it.
Patricia swanned about the property morning, noon and night, a look of intellectual boredom on her face. She would yawn silently and widely in all settings, never covering her mouth. I liked her a great deal, though wasn’t quite sure why.
Kevin – timid, muscly Kevin – was Patricia’s oversized shadow.
Stephen smiled non-stop. He smiled when someone read something aloud, he smiled when food was brought to the table, he smiled when he met you in the corridor. I saw him smile when he stepped in dog poop on our group walk to the village. Within twenty-four hours of meeting my mission was to make him frown.
Kenneth was an American, and he was more ‘other’ than the Bulgarian, Swede and Nigerian guests combined, certainly in his own eyes. He liked to bore the group with the differences between British and American food, clothing, TV and spelling. Annoyingly, he turned out to be an amazing writer – the star of the group.
Liam was more artist than author, and I wondered if he’d signed up for the wrong retreat. That first session he sat down with twelve coloured pencils and no pen. He lived in a wheelchair, though you’d often forget this. We were literally starting down the footpath to the beach on Day 3 before someone realised Liam couldn’t join in if we took that route.
Shawn was the tutor, and wanted to be part of the gang more than anything. I worried about his emotional stability more than that of Kat, and Kat was scared of doorways.
Cindi was the resident ghost. She was pale and quiet, with ash hair, large eyes, and a fondness for cream slacks and loose white shirts. When she spoke your neck grew sore from leaning in. I pegged her age as being between 30 and 60.
Lai was a Kevin too, but he lost his name that first day to the other Kevin. Lai wore a camera around his neck all the time, and ensured you knew that he knew he looked the stereotype before you could say or even think it. It was only the last day when I saw his photos that I realised he’d hoodwinked us all; there wasn’t a single tourist shot, only extreme closeups of different surfaces. It was like looking at a carpet catalogue – only textures and colours.
Shane was our guest reader, with us for only one evening. She was distant, hilarious, and wore the loudest clothes conceivable. By the end of the evening all the women had mascara messes; we looked a family of racoons. Truthfully, I became a little obsessed with the woman, and decided any daughter I might one day have would be getting an androgynous name too.
Jillian was our ginger-loving cook. I don’t think she’d like knowing her name was being shared in print somewhere.
And then there was me. Clumsy, prone to ill-timed laughing, and universally liked because I always had a stash of cream biscuits I was eager to share.
So what do you think of these characters – would you want to read more about them or not?