It’s been a very long time since I was involved in Children in
Need myself – fronting it for BBC South West. To be honest, it was always a complete joy to see the fundraising and the outcome, but quite stressful to cope with the cold and the chaos.
Thermals were very often the order of the day and there
was usually an adrenaline overdose as a producer whispered into your earpiece “coming to you, Teresa” when you were, ahem, not quite expecting it!
These days I really enjoy watching the show "from the other side" with a glass of wine and a log fire. Inevitably - I always feel for all the current presenters and the production team. It’s a mammoth professional challenge to stage the show and - guys; you did a great job last night. But the real herograms, of course, go to the fundraisers and the amazing children and families who share their inspirational stories.
I particularly loved that so many films last night allowed the parents and the children to do all the talking themselves. These stories are not always easy to watch. But it is so very important to show the reality. What the fundraising is really for.
I am personally very passionate about the work that hospices do so I was especially touched to see excellent films explaining what these wonderful charities are truly about – namely helping children and their families to make the very most of precious time.
I worked for a time helping a Devon hospice for adult care with its PR work and I have rarely felt that my writing life has been more worthwhile. So – well done Children In Need.
A record-breaking total says a lot about the kindness out there.
Precious time, indeed. Pudsey – be proud.
Confession. For the third day now, I am writing in my dressing
OK. A fib. I am actually writing in someone else’s dressing
gown. In the dressing gown of a rather lovely spa, to be precise. One of those white, plump dressing gowns – more
hug than clothing.
I have daydreamed, if not hallucinated about this for as long as I can remember. Running away to write, I mean.
It is a tad hard to justify for most of us and especially me as I work from home and so technically have plenty of windows to write - often choose writing over the laundry and the chores. But there has always been this longing at the back of my mind to spend
some time completely on my own to write. Not just a few hours. Not just a whole day. But a few consecutive days. No chores. No conversation. Nothing but the page.
But where on earth could I run away to? Cottage by the sea? A garret in Paris? Both perfect, of course, but …never going to happen.
And then by serendipity the offer came for me to run away to a place that I already know and love. The Ragdale Hall spa near Melton Mowbray.
Here we need to digress a moment for me to explain that I am not some spoiled creature who is in the habit of trotting off to a spa when a nail cracks. The truth is I came very late in life to the concept of the Spa - persuaded by a friend to try it while our children were on a school trip yomping around Dartmoor.
The truth? I wasn't sure at first . A bit shy about the idea. Wear dressing gowns all day? Let people see my wobbly bits? I didn't think I was that sort of gal.
Well. It took about five minutes flat in the extraordinary surroundings of Ragdale Hall , Leicestershire, to convert me. Turns out every girl is that sort of gal....and especially me.
That was a few years ago and I have returned a few times since – always as a paying guest and always in company. A gals’ getaway. Lots of rest. And lots of chat.
And then Ragdale made me a very generous offer I could not refuse. Would I like to try the spa as a writer’s retreat? As their guest?
Would I heck…
Ragdale very generously booked me in for a complimentary night and I got out the piggy bank to add on a second night to give me three… whole… days… away…to…write.
So the next challenge for me – how to make this break truly work both as a writer and as a spa enthusiast who
didn’t want to waste such wonderful surroundings or the extra pennies from my piggy bank.
Ragdale, let me warn you, is not a place you want to hole up in your room the whole time. It is positively dripping with awards for the most divine facilities. As a thank you for their complimentary night, I’m adding a link below to their website and video so you can see for yourself. Do look. And prepare to be tempted to start
But back to the writing.
I decided that for this trip to work as a retreat, I would need to set myself a daily wordcount goal around which I would plan plenty of exercise and some delicious treatments.
Regular readers will know that I am currently following the Stephen King discipline of writing ie 2,000 words daily. I upped this target at Ragdale and kept to it, using additional time swimming, walking and in the gorgeous spa area to think and plot and plan. Ragdale has several areas in which absolute quiet is the rule – a beautiful candle pool and a “thought zone” which is a very comfortable dry heat spa room with gentle music and soothing images projected on the ceiling.
I used these areas a lot between writing to experience real calm and to work out new scenes and ideas.
I had wondered, to be honest, how it would feel overall to visit on my own. Would I stand out? Feel awkward? Feel lonely?
As a journalist who has often travelled alone for work – not a bit of it.
The most delicious part about Ragdale for me is that everyone stays in their dressing gowns pretty much all day. This is not a country house hotel …with a spa add on. This is a spa with bells on.
I did get dressed for dinner in the evening but not dressed up. And I didn’t feel lonely or self conscious or out of place for one moment.
I hit my writing target, I managed to sort a lot of plotting and planning challenges, I had a full body massage and facial. Oh - and I also learned to salsa! What’s not to love?
So if you have daydreamed about running away to write, then give it some serious thought.
Here’s the link to the Ragdale website.
There are lots of regular discounts and offers, especially if you are able to book at short notice.
For myself? I’m already saving to run away again…
Teresa Driscoll - journalist, author, mother of two and lover of great coffee.