copywriting in Cornwall



A friend emailed me the details of the, ’What Makes your Book Club Special’ competition, and my immediate reaction was, ‘Great, that will give me something to think about on a wet, winter’s morning in Cornwall’, and trust me, we have plenty of those! Inspiration is sluggish with an oppressive, gunmetal-grey sea adding to the nation’s melancholy. And then, I thought, my Book Club is a constant of friendship and brightness in these bleak times, and is very special.

To be honest, I don’t think my book club was that different from others until ‘lockdown number 1’. Almost a year later and life, as we knew it is taking a hiatus for the foreseeable future. What of book club? Retreat into a depleted zone of self isolation. Don’t bother, watch Netflix, eat chocolate and wait until it’s all over. A book club bubble on the beach. We stumbled while we physically and emotionally, re-adjusted, but the need to communicate became more relevant than ever as the months have dragged on. We missed each other, and now, book club is a focal point, in which we ‘see’ each other and read more than back in the good, old days.

Here’s our back story. We’ve been established for 21 years, as Helston-Lizard Book Club, and we’re probably/ possibly/maybe the most southerly book club in the UK, way, way down on the Lizard Peninsula. We began as a separate group within an established women’s organisation, when one of the members, Kate, invited several of us, whose passion for literature and sharing books was second nature, to form a book club.

We had an idea of the recommended structure and followed the guidelines for the best format: no more than 8-10 people as an optimum for group discussion, although we have a core of twelve. The take-up was so popular that membership became almost clandestine; so many wanted to join it would have led to noisy, gossipy chaos, a night out being the focus and not a book; we joked; ‘The first rule about book club, don’t talk about book club’!

The way we choose titles may differ from some clubs. As friends, evenings would be relaxed and informal; the concept that better discussion happened if meetings were held at a neutral venue didn’t appeal, and we decided on six weekly intervals, taking turns in each others homes. The host for the evening chooses the next book; this has proven an enlightening way of expanding our reading experience and we’ve appreciated the work of authors who might never have crossed our minds. The pattern for the meetings was a catch-up, glass of wine, talk about the book, cake and cuppa, and more chat.

We’ve read 170 books; yes, Kate has kept count; ranging from erudite to idiotic, memorable to forgettable, autobiographies from Eric Clapton to the Mitford sisters, dystopian to utopian. Some books, so boring, one has to question how the author swung a publishing deal, and others so powerful and inspirational, the style, eloquence and theme are referred to time and time again.

While we’ve been reading, something subliminal and surprising has emerged from those thousands of words and pages of print. Something so strong and unifying that extends beyond a love of books and works of fiction, into fact. We’ve woven an invisible thread of friendship; a mutually supporting sisterhood, sharing fears and tears, sadness and happiness, bereavement and the arrival of grandchildren. We didn’t realise this until we couldn’t see and hug one another.

And then Zoom buzzed into my life! My son explained the program to me, in the way sons do, but meant, ‘ You’re an idiot mum, but I’ll tell you anyway’, he said it was user-friendly. ‘Of course it is, dear’, said I… taking into the equation that I’m known as the family techno-prat! I signed up, and invited all to join. To begin with it was an odd experience; glitchy, twitchy images, more like breakdance freeze moves; poor, unstable connections…we do live in the wild, west of Cornwall, not renowned for its super fast broadband signal and connectivity to the rest of the country. The stagecoach, and BT, might as well stop at Jamaica Inn as far as speedy communication goes.

Our tentative steps into the uncharted world of video meetings was met with trepidation, giggles and exclamations, ‘ Are you there, Linda’, ‘ We can’t hear you’, ‘Show yourself, Les’, ‘There’s a green thing that looks like a lolly with a red line through it’……and, no, I hadn’t switched my keyboard for a Ouija board, even if it may have sounded as if we are holding a seance.

The technology has proved to be amazingly user- friendly and we’ve familiarised ourselves with commands, ‘join with computer video’, ‘unmute mic’, ‘gallery view’. As Zoom has got its act together with better servers, so our virtual book club has flourished. We ‘meet’ every two weeks; have a gossip for one session and a second, to discuss the chosen book. We have a comfortable familiarity as smiling faces light up the gallery. It’s very relaxed: gone are the days of shoe-envy; Jenny’s sun-tanned, bunion-free feet in gorgeous, red, strappy numbers replaced with fluffy slippers. Angie’s in bed with her crochet and cocoa and an iPad that slips onto the floor, giving us a mouse eye view of under the bed…no comment! Kate has problems with her camera light and could be hiding in a cupboard under the stairs, others have ‘helpful’ husbands who have to check it’s all going fine and tablets resting on cushions, propped on a coffee table are frequently angled at boobs or the tops of heads, and I’ve got a bouncy spaniel who hasn’t figured out why I’m having a conversation with the wall and it’s answering me…and as for hair!!

Last summer, we had planned to celebrate the Twenty Years of Helston-Lizard Book Club; a week away at Hay on Wye Literature Festival, even Fowey Festival of Art and Literature, for a long weekend, but, of course, it didn’t happen. For now, we’re just a group of ordinary women, bound in friendship by books that allow us to escape into make-believe, and while we may be physically distanced, and missing Chris’s tiffin and Kate’s tray-bakes, who would have thought a pandemic could have an upside.

To sum up; our book club is special because it’s a safe place, normal and free from fear, and while the pending vaccination programme has injected a glimmer of hope into a return to normal life - the shot in the arm we have is making each other laugh…and that’s infectious, too!

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