I have been in heaven for a week on a writing retreat in deepest, darkest Shropshire. 

I was here…

and as A.E. Houseman put it

Clunton and Clunbury,
Clungunford and Clun,
Are the quietest places
Under the sun.

Especially when you have a writing room all of your own here.

and the view from your writing desk is this…

It’s been a week chockfull of Murder, She Wrote and my head is full of Jessica, Mort, Seth, Sherriff Tupper, Loretta and all the other wonderful folk of Cabot Cove.  It’s been total bliss.

One of the jobs I did was to tinker around with the list of recipes that still need test cooking, if you are interested in testing something for the book, please do skip over here. EVERYONE IS WELCOME, no matter what your cooking skills, there is something for everyone on the list, and there is much fun to be had!

The Arvon Foundation Clockhouse cupboards, fridge, fruit bowl and freezers were fully stocked with delicious food. 

Whoever Tallulah is, I raise a glass to her.
Fried as a mink! Stiff as a goat!

Really I could have easily spent the whole week without cooking a thing, but of course, I couldn’t resist.  I thought an Angela Lansbury Cottage Pie would be an appropriate dish to share with my three fellow writers and man it was GOOD.

Luckily my lovely sis-in-law-to-be Jools had already tested this recipe so she gave me a couple of tips to pimp the pie, so these will be in the Murder, She Cooked book along with the slightly-tweaked recipe. Basically, I skipped the step where Angela bakes the mince mixture for 15 minutes and I added a good glug of red wine and some Worcestershire sauce to the mixture to keep it nice and moist – one tablespoon I think from memory. Possibly a bit more as I love that stuff.

I did feel a bit like a 1970s dinner lady putting this together…
But was super pleased that HALF Angela’s recipe
fitted the receptacle perfectly!
Good old fashioned fodder for a drizzly night in Shropshire

The Susan Anton Apple Crisp I made to go with it was good too, but somehow I totally forgot to add the flour in with the other ingredients.  My mind was full of cotton wool.  The Apple Crisp still tasted good but as Helen observed, it was more like a compote than a crumble. To see what Susan Anton’s Apple Crisp SHOULD be like, check out Sherrie’s version here…

I am pleased to announce that as well as writing and cooking, I did do a bit of exercise while I was here. Namely two run-throughs of the Angela Lansbury Positive Moves workout (I wrote about this genius exercise routine here).

I really loved Angela’s invitation to join her in the 10-minute free-form dancing sessions as I had a fabulous view of rolling hills and beautiful trees from my window as I pranced around in my NEW PYJAMAS.

Also (drum roll please) I did the first session of the Debbie Reynolds workout too.

I did promise I would give this a go when I tried to live my life like Shelley Winters for a day!

It’s true, I did have to sit some exercises out, just like Shelley,

but for the most part I managed to keep up with Debbie and her relentlessly energetic wisecracking exercise madness.

I will definitely do Debbie’s workout again, mainly because each time I watch it, I manage to catch an extra bit of Shelley’s heckling from the back. This time I heard her saying, “Are my bulges supposed to hurt?” Debbie laughing shouts back, “Yeah, your bulges are supposed to hurt!”

Chums forever…

Getting together with the other writers Geoff, Lesley and Helen each evening filled my head with so many new ideas and so much writerly knowledge.  We got to know each other slowly but surely over the dining table and in front of the fire. 

Just one more sleeve to go!

The first night we all got together there was much talk of Proust.  Like Marcel, I almost always write in bed, but have to admit that I have never read In Search of Lost Time  I did laugh out loud when Lesley was talking about the denouement and Geoff said, “Don’t give away the ending, I’ve still got volume 7 to go.”  Haha!

One morning I went downstairs for coffee and got chatting to Lesley.  I wondered if she’d know about something I’d been puzzling over.  I was writing about The Corpse Flew First Class where JB has to solve a crime mid-air between the US and UK. 

I’d been pondering whether there might be a term for the kind of Agatha Christie-esque plot where murder suspects are all trapped in one place.  “Sounds like Aristotle,” said Lesley, “unity of time, unity of action, unity of place.”  GENIUS! 

My fellow writers were so well-read, but I tried to hold my own and had a good laugh with Helen about Nora Ephron’s Heartburn which we both agreed was brilliant.  Chatting to Helen made me want to read it yet again, and watch the movie adaptation too…

Take that!

So I am leaving beautiful Shropshire with a shopping list. I will have to buy yet another copy of Heartburn (both the book and the DVD have been Kondo-d), a copy of Lesley’s book Everything I’ve Ever Done That Worked and 7 volumes of Proust.

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