Leaf and Flame: The road north

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I know I have to start the story at the beginning… yet when I think of the personal highlights of the Silent Eye’s Leaf and Flame workshop, my mind jumps all over the place, from one special moment to another, from hugs to a headless man, from what sounded like a menagerie of maenads to the silence of meditation… and all to the beat of a drum that has not left me since the first Fox flare lit the night.

But the weekend really started a long time ago, with Stuart and a friend throwing around the idea of using the story of Gawain and the Green Knight as the basis for a workshop. A year ago, after our ritual foray into ancient Egypt with the River of the Sun, we had been talking about that on the way to our monthly meeting. “You two should do the next workshop,” said Steve, who has written the previous ones. Well, it’s funny you should mention that... and so, the idea that had been wandering around Stuart’s mind for a good while became a reality.

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Over the past year the story has occupied our attention as it has grown and put out tendrils, transforming itself into something new and wrapping itself around other strands of symbolism that seemed to want to be included as we wandered down ever stranger highways. The props and costume department, by the time we had finished, was considerable too and by the very nature of an unrehearsed workshop, some of the things we were planning we could only take as a leap of faith, hoping they would work on the day.

Even though we had started working on the script in the immediate aftermath of River of the Sun, time seemed to run out on us all too quickly and, in the end, April came suddenly, creeping up on us unawares. So last Thursday morning after work, with a boot stuffed with strange objects and sumptuous velvets, I headed north.

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It was a beautiful day. The kites, buzzards and kestrels were everywhere and the sulphur yellow of gorse lined the roads. Magnolia flowers reached like flames on leafless branches. Tantalising glimpses of blue peeped out between the trees and, as I neared my destination, I felt obliged to stop in a little wood to see the first spring bluebells… not yet at their best in the north, but just beginning to carpet the woods in beauty. The day was full of hope and promise that boded well for the weekend… in spite of the forecast of snow.

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By next morning the car was stuffed to the brim, with barely enough room for Stuart and me in the front seats… and we were off. We would arrive early but that was okay… we would head up to the Barrel Inn to take a moment to breathe, have a coffee, and our traditional look out over the hills of Derbyshire. As we climbed the hill, a small, furry creature scurried across the road in front of us, hurrying at breakneck speed, as well it might… it was just here we had seen the kestrel on our last visit. In the fields, new lambs gambolled and we stopped to watch them play.

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…And then there was no more time. We headed down into Great Hucklow, seeing Steve and Barbara strolling towards the Queen Anne and our rendezvous. Stuart wound down the window as we came close…

“Reprobates!” he shouted. The pair turned and grinned… and thus the weekend began, as it would continue…. in beauty,friendship and laughter.

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