The idea of a Storyville Weekend was first mooted in the spring
of 2001. It had long been a dream of mine that Storyvillians
should cook together, but how this absurd fantasy was to be
accomplished I remained unsure. It seemed politic to broach
the matter. Storyvillians were open to suggestion (as was
their wont), though the subject of cooking per se was not
The question then arose : When and where was the weekend to
take place? The date was swiftly chosen, by means of a highly
developed voting system adapted from Attilan Takitorleavit
customs of the fifth century. The location was more problematic.
A number of scouts were despatched. The Raines division returned
with a brochure for a castle in Fife, which included the puzzling
and not altogether auspicious footnote : *Tarpaulins available.
The Andrews division came back with the price list for a so-called
luxury hotel in London, but we strongly suspected that Madame
Fifi's House of Happiness might not be quite all that it seemed.
For some time I was resolute in my determination that bunking
up in a freezing youth hostel and cooking spag bol on a rusty
electric cooker was the best way to forge closer friendships
among this band of pale poets and hardened drinking types.
My preference lay with the isolated mansion atop a Cornish
cliff, or the ex-sailors' retirement home on a rain-lashed
Margate seafront. Distinct lack of enthusiasm for both dormitories
and spag bol, expressed by my fellow scouts in the form of
grim silence, persuaded me that some alternative style of
accommodation must be provided.
Exhaustive searches yielded no result. Then, in May, I spent
a week in the quaint Yorkshire seaside town of Robin Hood's
Bay. Here my husband endured with great patience what had
become for me an increasing obsession. Day after day I wandered
the narrow streets, plucking brochures from the doors of holiday
cottages, only to fall victim to a growing realisation : as
is so often the case in life, it would not be possible to
cook together without also sleeping under the same roof. Cooking
together but sleeping elsewhere were incompatible.
It was at this crisis-point that fortune smiled, in the form
of a faded advertisement pinned to the window of a shop selling
dubious artworks, next door to the Dolphin at the bottom of
the Bay. Thorpe Hall was a seventeenth century manor house
set in seven acres, with narrow mullioned windows and panelled
walls, historic atmosphere and family portraits, perfect for
a weekend gathering of speculative fiction writers and internet
addicts. Further enquiries established that the accommodation
was more or less ideal, and though we wouldn't be able to
cook, we would at least be able to preserve our modesty. A
sacrifice worth making, perhaps, though I still believe that
a meal cooked by Storyvillians would be a feast beyond compare.
That very afternoon I received the full tour, courtesy of
Peter, aka The Enthusiastic Man, whose passion for lightbulbs
was exceeded only by his passion for sharing more than one
really wished to know about the history of the house, viz.
"Are you a crime writers' group?"
"No, we write all sorts of things really, science fiction,
"Because I've always thought this house would be brilliant
inspiration for a crime writers' group."
Enthusiastic Man then proceeds to tell the story of the murderous
dentist who stabbed his wife in the bath and afterwards gave
himself a fatal injection, but "there aren't any baths here
now, only showers, so you needn't worry." He seems to believe
this is a sales point in the house's favour, though I am feeling
quite queasy and beginning to have my doubts. I quash these
however, we do a deal in the kitchen and go away.
After a sleepless night spent worrying about the dentist I
wake to seagulls and a blue sky and decide that everything
will be all right and I won't tell anyone about the dentist
and his murderous deed. I return home and present the results
of my researches. They seem to go down well. By dint of gentle
nudging and cajoling, patient reminders and repetition, firmness
of purpose and fixity of intention, a goodly half of Storyville
is converted to weekenderdom.
So it was that on the fifth of October Storyvillians gathered
from all four corners of the country and from across the sea,
descending by wing and by wheel on the small red-roofed town
of Robin Hood's Bay, to weave fresh myths and legends in the
annals of Storyville lore, to laugh at the singers of sea
shanties and to incur their wrath, to laugh a good deal themselves
and indulge in wit, to damage designer shoes and to walk kites,
to fend off vampires and owls, and to improve their fitness,
though marginally, in preparation for the Great Storyville
Trek of 2002.
But that will be the stuff of future legend...
For now these memories of friendship and intrepid adventure
must suffice, the camp-fire tales of how we conquered the
hills and threw our words upon the waves, of how we, the denizens
of cyberspace, did battle with reality and bent it to our
will, the fleshly Storyville rendering the virtual one more
real. All this and more will be our Ramayana. And how, incidentally,
we found the yellow men.