Before I go into all the details I just want to say, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU to everyone who was part of this weekend. Thank you to Christine and Gerry for allowing us into their home and for making us feel very welcome. Thank you to Jonathan Richardson our caterer, not only for the scrumptious food served on the table, but for the thoughtful food packages that he sent Rodney and I home with. Thank you to Amy for being a lovely waitress. Lots of love and special thanks to Rodney, for fulfilling my dream of hosting these fantasy art retreats, for supporting me through the organisation of everything, plying me with tea, saying "yes babe" continuously and for playing endless amounts of football with our pup (our two year old Barkeley). My biggest thanks of all goes to our attendees - YOU WERE AMAZING. Each and every one of you brought something special to our group. I have to say it was quite emotional, there were stories shared, and tears wept, but I feel that everyone went home lifted - emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. The bond was great, and it felt once again like a real family affair - Rodney and I were honoured to learn that we were being referred to as "Mum and Dad"!
I was there to meet everyone checking-in and to show them to their rooms Adrian, sporting a Magnum t-shirt, and Alan turned up first and I was blown away to realise that they were both costume designers, having worked on the Star Wars movies!!! Adrian had also worked at Jim Henson's Creature Workshop and was chief wand and broomstick maker for the Harry Potter movies - it was like we had Ollivander himself there!! Justin and Margaret, sporting another Magnum tee, were the next to arrive. The Prosecco began to flow as one by one our group grew with the appearance of Jasmine, then Rachel and finally Ann. The Magnum theme continued - as it turned out, we had a whole group of Magnum fans on our hands!
Rodney rocked up at 2.15pm, in time for the meet and greet followed by afternoon tea - sandwiches, salted caramel brownies, strawberry cupcakes and scones with jam and clotted cream. It was difficult extracting ourselves from the comfort of the drawing room (and from the cakes), but we managed it, and made our way to the courtyard for Rodney's art lecture (punctuated by his wonderful anecdotes). This was followed by a break and the first of our relaxation sessions - some deep breathing and grounding techniques to put everyone at ease before putting pencil to paper. We returned to the courtyard where everyone chose something to draw from Rodney's bunch of freshly plucked flowers and foliage - a bit of still life, so that Rodney could discover everyone's capabilities and decide how he could best assist:
Rodney's own still life drawing very quickly turned into a fantasy scene:
We called it a day at 6.45pm, because the champagne was ready to serve in the drawing room - a tough, but unanimous choice. We eagerly anticipated each of the canapés, served one at a time, making sure our mouths were watering for the next. Jonathan then called us into the atmospheric, candlelit dining room for delicious main and dessert. The conversation flowed freely, with favourites movies and music being discussed. We retired to the drawing room for more fun and laughter, before some went to bed, and before Rodney and I went home to our pup.
Day two was another scorcher. With everyone breakfasted and having practised progressive muscle relaxation, we went outdoors for a tour of the garden looking for inspiration. It was everywhere:
Work began on dragons, trees, chariots and more ...
For the second lesson of the day, we made the short trip across the road to view the gargoyles of Elkstone Church. A wondrous sight that sent us all back to our drawing boards with renewed vigour. As we worked away, the terrifically talented Rachel performed opera for us! I'm so disappointed that we never got a photo of this. Rachel had joined us throughout the days and we were all so sad when it was time for her to go home. I took this group shot before we said goodbye:
Another evening of canapés and dinner by candlelight was followed by a presentation of what Rodney and I have up our sleeves for the future - children's books, music and more. Poor Rodney wanted to let the group hear some tracks from his album Trinity (soon to be released), but we had no means of playing the CD he'd brought with him. We ended up listening to it straight from his iPhone - with no speakers, which did not do it justice. He was not a happy bunny. Thankfully though, we managed to cheer him up by asking him to read one of his Gasbags poems. Sure enough, within moments he was chuckling away to himself. We were all in fits of laughter. Rodney tried hard to keep a straight face, but one look at Alan laughing and Rodney was away again. I believe for some that the party went on until 2pm (!?), but Rodney and I were tucked up in bed by 1pm.
We all met again this morning, just after breakfast, and am sure could have quite easily chatted away together for hours, but our time was up and we had to leave. Rodney, as he said above, received the most wonderful parting gift from Adrian, but I'm not going to steal his thunder and tell you all about it just now - he's keeping that until his next blog.
There was of course time for one more group shot before we said our goodbyes:
Thanks again everyone! We hope to continue our retreats next year, perhaps late Spring and Summer, but we will keep you posted. If you would like to put your name on the waiting list, or would like info as it comes, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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