You’re never alone at the UfO Club

Third time lucky, so they say. I certainly hope they’re right, because I’ve written this post twice already. I started the first draft about a week ago, finally finishing it on Thursday. Previewed and revised to my satisfaction, I published it, checking its status through Facebook and Twitter. I was not hallucinating. It was definitely there, in black and salmon pink, for all to enjoy.

Later that evening I noted that the title of my piece was not being displayed on my tweet about it. And, when I followed the link, I was disconcerted to find that the original, unfinished draft had replaced the later scrubbed-up and rounded-off version. I have no idea what happens in cyber-space and there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to learn more than the required minimum, so I can shed no light on what happened there. But it does leave me wondering whether Internet publishing is a reliable way to build up a reputation as a writer. Unhappy that work-in-progress had been made public, I deleted that post.

But I’m prepared to give it one last chance, in an off-line document, rather than typing directly onto the live template. So, if techno-gremlins eat my words, I’ll still have them on file. And if this doesn’t work, I’ll concede defeat and do something less frustrating instead! Anyway, as far as I can recall, this is what I wrote:

The UfO Club at OliVen’s is growing – about seventeen members now attend, not all of them from Newport. The group is becoming so popular that crafters are prepared to travel into the County Town from outlying areas. This may not be such a big deal on the mainland – when I lived in Devon I would regularly travel 250 miles, all in a day’s work. But Isle of Wight miles are longer and Freshwater is considered to be at the outer limits of the known universe, even by those who live there. (I should know, I once did.)

A young man has joined us. Knitting a baby blanket in wavy, orange and black stripes, he explained that he plans to add a tiger’s head and paws, if there’s enough time before the intended recipient is born. I wonder if any other male crafters will follow his lead. Olivier is always present, of course, but – when he’s not serving at the counter – he works on his own projects at the front of the shop, while Vendulka sits with the group.

With the chairs pushed back against the quilt-bedecked walls, the café space opens up. No-one need sit with their back to another and it’s easy to see what project each of us is attempting to complete (this being the Unfinished Object Club.) We offer praise, encouragement and even advice if it’s sought; pass round pattern books, share tips on equipment and materials and reveal fascinating snippets of our back-stories; discussing what has drawn us to this particular group.

Vendulka told us that, when she was growing up, her sister revamped an old dress of their mother’s by shortening it and adding a frill. And, when Vendulka inherited it, she fashioned a top for herself by removing the skirt. This insight explains why she’s such a talented designer, who loves incorporating recycled materials into her art.

Conversations don’t just revolve around quilting, knitting or crochet either. We talk about our families and everyday lives – my son’s recent wedding; Kerry’s daughter becoming Carnival Queen, summer visitors from the mainland, local events.

On voicing a particular personal concern, I found that many others had similar experience. Their good-natured solutions uplifted me, calming my mind and restoring my perspective. By the time Barbara and Pat had invited me to visit the latter’s home one morning, (warning me that there was much to be done, so I could be handed a saw and instructed to cut down some trees), I was laughing out loud.

A chance remark uncovered an amazing co-incidence. Although we didn’t know it at the time, Olivier and I had once been neighbours. The Artist and I owned a property a short distance away from the Breton village in which his mother lived. It was easy for me to picture her house, because the one next door (which belonged to his aunt,) had been turned into a Buddhist Centre – but we looked up the area on Vendulka’s laptop, so that I could show them our place. As we discussed a mutual acquaintance, the eccentricities of the locals and the distinctive aroma surrounding a particular chicken factory, I was prompted to write more ‘Tao de Bretagne’ posts over on Wightrabbit’s blog. (Watch that space.)

Celebrating her birthday, one of our ladies was presented with a slice of Olivier’s homemade cake, topped with a musical candle. We set aside our work to sing along with it, clapping and cheering as she blew out the flame. It occurred to me, then, that anyone strolling past the open door of the shop would find it hard to believe that we’ve only been meeting, on a fortnightly basis, since the end of June.

Like other writers, artists and makers I often feel isolated – but I’ve discovered the perfect anti-dote. With its blend of easy conversation, mutual support and shared knowledge this group nurtures my creative impulses, inspiring me in so many ways and providing me with a focus. Now I’ve made friends at the UfO Club, I need never feel alone.

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