A patchwork of history

What do writers do all day?

When they're not writing, they're imagining, and sometimes they go on outings to fascinating places, which is what a group of Exeter Writers did yesterday.

A group of writers prepares to boldly go...

We went to Poltimore, which some of you might remember from the BBC's Restoration series. Alas, Poltimore didn't win, so it's still waiting for a zillionaire with a stack of cash to happen along.

Do we need hard hats?
No, we're writers - we're hard enough!

As a nation, we're practically buried under the layers of our history. Devon is particular rich in history, featuring the Jurassic Coast charting the birthdays of the world from aeons before human beings came along to, more recently, some astonishing buildings in various states of magnificence or - sadly - decay.

Poltimore House near Exeter is in a state of decay and needs millions spent on it. Well, if it's to be restored to anything like its former glory it does. When it was sold by the Bampfylde family in the early years of the 20th century, its decline had already begun, and its subsequent tenants did little to preserve its beauty. It became a girls' school, then a boys' school, then a private hospital, then an NHS hospital, and finally a private nursing home. But, as costs mounted, its resources diminished and  finally it was abandoned. The vandals moved in, stealing, stripping, looting, scavenging and burning. It's now home to a very vocal flock of jackdaws, lots of pigeons and a few bats. Some of its former magnificence still remains, however, and there are many features worth preserving.

The Tudor Tower and Courtyard

The Georgian Plasterwork

The Entrance Hall

Nowadays, several teams of volunteers, who are determined the place should be magnificent once again, are working on its restoration. We salute their efforts and can assure you Poltimore is well worth a visit. Anyone who is interested in volunteering to get involved in the restoration project can get in touch via Poltimore's website -  http://www.poltimore.org/

(Margaret James)


It is with great sadness that I record the death of my husband, Ray Girvan, whom many of you have known for some time. Ray and I joined Exeter Writers in about 1998, but he soon decided that, as a technical rather than a literary writer, the group wasn’t really for him and left. He remained a presence in the group, however, coming to social occasions and managing the website, which he did for several years until he became too ill to continue.

Ray was a remarkable man; whatever he turned his hand to, he could do. He was a scientist, a mathematician, a writer (some years ago, he amassed quite a fan following for his erotic fiction, written under the name Thomas Gomez!), a website wizard, a cook, a geologist, a researcher, a fixer, a musician (visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7f_gGFuQHRo to see him in action), a collector, a hilarious wit and general know-all. His biography of Maxwell Gray, an authoress who lived on the Isle of Wight at the turn of the century, is published by Wren Publishing.
He was a kind man, fond of animals, generous and thoughtful, and willing to put himself out for other people. He had a temper, but it was quickly over. He was like Mr Darcy in that his good opinion, once lost, was lost for ever, but he could also forgive.
Had it not been for a cough that wouldn’t go away, Ray might not have discovered the cancer until it was too late. He was sent for tests and a scan that showed the cancerous nodes on his lungs shining green like the evil little parasites they were. He would sometimes say that the cancer had hit him just when he was at the height of his powers, and he was right.  For a non-smoker, it was also dreadfully unfair.
He was my adviser and best friend; everything, even going to the local shop, was a small adventure and his curiosity was boundless. His death at fifty nine was too tragically soon and he will be greatly missed by those of us who knew and loved him.

Clare Girvan

2014/5 Short Story Competition Results

Congratulations to Ceri Lowe-Petraske who has won this year's competition with her wonderful story The Parrots of Peckham Rye. You can see the full results, including shortlisted and longlisted entries, and read the winning stories, by clicking here.

Gorgito's Prize

The debut novel by member, Elizabeth Ducie, has been chosen as runner-up in this year’s Self-Published Book of the Year Awards. Gorgito’s Ice Rink is a tale of love, loss and broken promises, set mainly in 1990s Russia, just after the fall of the Soviet Union. During that period, Elizabeth was helping to restructure the Russian pharmaceutical industry, and “although the story is completely fictional, Gorgito is based on someone I worked for, and some of my experiences found their way into the story” she said.