A weekend retreat-conference never to be forgotten
We arrived early Friday evening. It was dark, cold and wet. The place stank of fish. My husband carried my case up to the small bedroom as directed by the strange overweight woman dressed in black. Before she left us, she showed me the nearest toilet on the landing. It was small with the lavatory under a sloping ceiling. She reached over to the toilet and lifted up both seat and cover.
“I keep telling them to leave the seat up,” she said crossly.
I wondered why that should be so. Usually people prefer to lower the cover to keep in smells. I came to the conclusion that with the ceiling being low, it required men to either kneel as though in prayer, or bend the knees in order to aim without head bumping on the ceiling. And if this was not done — perhaps because of infirmity — the toilet seat, if left in place, received an unexpected shower. Not nice for us ladies who have no hose to direct at the porcelain.
Back to the bedroom for my husband to wish me a good weekend and say goodbye. First, because of the freezing cold room, he tried to close the rattling window. No use, there appeared to be a permanent gap as the ancient window, with its small leaded panes, had distorted with age. (Mm, I know how that feels!)
A notice on the wall informed me of water-bottles in the kitchen that could be borrowed to make the guest’s stay more comfortable. I was beginning to wonder if we had entered Wuthering Heights by mistake.
I walked with my husband down the stairs and to the front door. I would have liked to have driven home with him. I might have been staying in an old picturesque building, but home had all the comforts.
I made my way to the sitting room through a miasma of stinking fish. I could hear the hounds of hell barking somewhere in the house. Another inmate informed me to keep clear of the two Alsatian dogs that were either tied up or inside the kitchen but occasionally escaped to other areas. The poor chap had actually been bitten by one of them and was clearly terrified of it happening again. Was that why he carried around his impressive posh walking stick? Or did he fancy himself as a proper gent. Maybe he had a medical problem that popped up from time to time.
Others arrived and joined us for a warm-up before dinner.
Like the walking stick guy, they had been there before and warned me of various matters.
On Fridays, I could expect fish pie served for dinner. Hence the stink of fish combined with a doggy smell. I was told NEVER to look inside the kitchen when the door opened while we sat at table in the dining room. If I saw inside the place where they prepared food, cooked, washed up and kept the dogs, I would prefer to go hungry.
I got a hint of what the kitchen might be like when we sat cramped together at one of the tables in the dining room. Immediately next to us, hamsters were racing round a wheel on a chest of drawers we were pushed up against. Hamster food scattered all over. The breakfast cereal boxes, kept there ready for the morning, had been chewed at the corners by mice. Some cutlery bore remnants of the last meal and plates had dirty watermarks — no rinsing there! The two devout ladies who ran the retreat house were constantly arguing. Clearly, being oversized and religious did not produce the harmony one might expect. No cheerful friars or chip-monks in that kitchen! The sounds of a hectic lifestyle, like the cooking smells, escaped the kitchen every time the door opened.
The meetings were held in a converted building across the yard. Plain, stark and uncomfortable. What did we learn? I’m sure it was appropriately erudite. Did we bond? Not a lot. Fortunately our venue changed and us with it.
It is a long time since I was on that training course, now my writing is creative rather than factual note taking, essays or sermons! Go to my Magpies Nest Publishing site for chapters, reviews and details about my books. (Some in pen names) Or my author site for extra details and a chance to comment. Having signed up with Dare Empire Media, my trilogy and The Dark Mirror are now available as inexpensive eBooks — cheap, quick to purchase and readily available on your lap top for tea breaks, odd moments, and train travel! Kindle versions available too.