This is your first glimpse of the seventeenth century farmhouse as you come up the drive from under the railway embankment that cuts off the estate from the outside world. It is surrounded by barns, stables and even pigstyes that have been renvated into comfortable 21st century sel-catering accommodation.
Here is the view you might see from your bedroom window as you unpack. The beds are all made up so you have no chores before you wander down to the kitchen to socialise.
The kitchen makes a wonderful chat room, but woe betide if you overstay your welcome and get in the way of the team whose duty it is to prepare the next meal. You can see Siobhan in the background checking who has signed up on the rota.
Here is the kitchen again when it has become a working area. (I thought I’d give old hands here a shot of nostalgia!)
Now read on for Peter Devlin’s take on his first time at Middle Stanley this last spring.
The Weekenders – At Middle Stanley Farm
Should you be fortunate enough to find yourself in the kitchen of the Main House at Middle Stanley Farm early afternoon on the first Friday, in May,you will witness a ritual that is both curious and engaging. As one of the main engine rooms of the house, it is the most natural place of gravitation for new arrivers. This is where introductions are made, bags are laid down like transit passengers — knowing their rest will be short lived, and where biscuits take centre stage on the pine wooden kitchen table.
As your fellow Weekenders arrive watch them take the few steps , up into the body of the kirk; the kitchen, halt for a few seconds, study the Duty Rota , show mild amusement, smile and then join you for a communal cup of tea or coffee.
Finding your room isn’t difficult — it will have your name on it. Just one of the many little ‘Big’ things that your fellow LWC Members Gwyneth & Liz will have already organised. Please take a little time to absorb the stunning views and the awe of this 17th Century house. After finding your way around,your body and mind tells you there is nowhere else they’d rather go than to the wonderfully springtime naturally lit Dining Room. Friday evening and dinner really sets the scene and the tone for the whole weekend and it is perfectly possible and reasonable to both lick your lips enjoying the fare and share tales of end of week journeys.
The late evening finds it’s natural point for weekenders to take to the stairs or discuss the ways of the world into the wee small hours. This is chromatic free wheeling time — who knows what discussions or debates might take form.
Saturday mornings and after you’ve satisfied your hunger you will have a whole range of workshops that will satisfy your curiosity on the craft of storytelling. The workshops are a fantastic opportunity to listen with fresh phonological ears. Ideas may inspire you to take a fresh look at perhaps old works or challenge you to write new works.
That very inspiration can find the perfect environment in a late Saturday afternoon where there are no ‘Planned’ events and you can re imagine that new chapter or feel the time has come to re examine the aesthetic structure, metaphor and cadences of those stanza’s in your latest poem. Whatever you do you can be sure of a time signal that is utterly contained and runs as if being lead by a master conductor… The tune is the choo choo rhythms of the small steam train that races somewhere across the hills. Should you be alert, with a keen ear and a sharp eye, and be near a south facing window you might just catch it. Wave generously and you never know — the driver might just wave back.
Refreshments and writing tales are usually the staple diet an hour or so before Dinner. . This takes place in the Sitting Room. I could describe its elegance for you — but you really have to see it for yourself. Middle Stanley has a Un rivalled reputation for ensuring that whatever your refreshment; no matter how rare, will always be found. Not because of any vast Wine Cellar or banks of Beer Coolers – but because you have to bring your own.
And so to dinner, where you will find you are both raconteur and attentive masterful listener. Post dinner on Saturday is the perfect time for some light entertainment in the way of perhaps a literary quiz. Next year the events organiser; that is a LWC volunteer,,is planning a ‘Round the Table’ short discussion which already has a title — ‘Pots, Pianos & Paperbacks’
On Sunday – we do it all over again.
Check Out is on Monday morning, and having filled your boots its time to pack your bags and doff your cap to Middle Stanley Farm, set your face in a north Easterly direction and head for the shires of middle England.
Whether it’s ‘Workshops’ or ‘kitchen Cloths’ the essence of the whole weekend is working together. Oh, and what is ‘Pots, Pianos & Paperbacks?’ Well, to find out get yourself booked on board and perhaps we’ll see you next May.
And here is the lounge where we will all find out exactly what “Pots, Pianos and Paperbacks” entails.