An Accidental Writing Retreat

My name is Alison, and I have a problem with doing things just for me.

Not doing things by myself, you understand; just doing things and spending money on things that only benefit me.

So it’s not surprising that although I’ve been tempted to book myself on the writer’s holidays that Della Galton praises so highly, or the writers’ retreats that Nicola Morgan and Laura Wilkinson have both enjoyed recently, I never have – because it seems self-indulgent; a holiday for one, albeit a working one, that would use money I could put towards a week in a cottage for the whole family. Perhaps if I was a mega-bestselling author, then…

Before anyone suggests that I Have Issues and Need Psychoanalysis, there’s no need. I know where the roots of the problem lie, and as my husband will attest, I’ve got a lot better over the years at allowing myself to buy things that aren’t a) the cheapest option available or b) life and death necessities. I now, for instance, own more than one bag. It took me a while.

bag pic

So. The writing retreat thing. Brief background:

  • Techie Husband often has to work abroad for a few days, and once when asked to do so at short notice, was told he could take me for free as a sweetener
  • I couldn’t go due to work, although it planted the seed of me/all of us going some other time
  • It was no real loss because his hotel was, as is so often the case, miles away from any pretty/interesting areas.

But recently he was asked to go to Bamberg and I made the mistake of looking at some images online and checking the hotel location, which for once is central, and not far from the river that flows through the city – a city that, if Google is anything to go by, is beautiful.


I was seized by Crazy. Could we all go and make up for our disaster-prone, illness-filled, wind-and-rain besieged holiday in Wales? There were even vegetarian restaurants for Constructo Boy, who is a pescaterian – something we’d presumed would be hard to cater for in Germany or Austria. I sent a jokey email to Techie Husband about it and shortly after the phone rang. “Were you serious? Because I need to book in the next two hours.”87px-Bamberg-Schlenkerla1-Asio

I dithered. He looked up prices. Booking a twin room for the kids would be pricey at the same hotel; Arty Daughter offered to stay at a cheaper hotel but Constructo Boy wasn’t keen on that – or on having fun while his Dad would be stuck at work for hours, possibly including evenings (often, he’s overseeing the installation of IT and comms systems best started when other staff aren’t in the office).

So I said no, but felt  sad. I’d been quite carried away. But it wasn’t fair to go without the kids – was it? I’d barely see my husband and it would only be fun for me… wandering the beautiful streets of Bamberg when I wasn’t writing… completely undisturbed… using the desk and free WiFi…. in the hotel room room that, unlike the kids’ one, was already paid for…

BW Bamberg room

A writing retreat had landed in my lap and I’d said no. What an idiot.

My children started on the psychoanalysis, telling me that I deserved to sometimes do something just for me and that I should go (see – told you I didn’t need your psychoanalysis offers). So I texted my poor husband who got the booking changed (saving his company the sole occupancy fee), and booked myself on the same flights.

So what will I do when I’m there?

Take in some sights and smells.
Learn something about Bamberg.
Be completely without responsibility to do anything other than write what I want for a few days.
What is  that like?


writing snipProbably work on the new novel that’s brewing and two short stories I’ve outlined this week, and if they don’t gel then go back to this novella >
that’s been sitting neglected for the last few years, with a few gaps that together only need around 7000 words to fill them…

… I might even blog about it! 😉

6 thoughts on “An Accidental Writing Retreat”

  1. Alison, I really hope you enjoy yourself and find it productive – I’ve a feeling you will – you certainly deserve it. I’m not sure how much of my blog about Gladstone’s you read or the history behind it, and my writing journey, but it might interest you to know that: a. it was a scholarship and so I didn’t have any guilt regarding money spent on myself rather than the children and husband; like you I have problems spending/indulging myself and I think it comes from a childhood background of financial insecurity, lots of love but not so much cash; b. Possibly as a result of a. it was the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. It felt impossible earlier because of the cost and also because how would my kids be cared for? My husband is a musician and is away a lot. I’m practised at managing them on my own; he is less so. Anyway, Gladstone’s is close to my mum so she had them for five days and then they were ferried elsewhere. Now that I’m rambling, I’ll sign off by repeating – you deserve this trip; enjoy it! Best wishes, Laura

    • How funny that your reply should come up in my inbox just as I’d finished immersing myself in all things Gladstone on their website and catching up on your last two posts about it 🙂
      It looks amazing. I am now fully in love with the place and was quite surprised at how reasonable the rates are anyway (although obviously a scholarship is even better, rate-wise). I was a bit peeved to notice that I could have applied for a scholarship while I was still an OU student. If only I’d known! Luckily for me, my ‘children’ – there really should be another word for them when they’ve towered above you for some time – are old enough to be left to their own devices, so childcare isn’t something I had to worry about.
      My retreat is going to be a lot shorter than yours, but I’m hoping it will be a great experience and perhaps persuade me to do it again. Thanks for your good wishes!

  2. Oh, I think you’ll love it and I certainly plan to return there sometime. By the way, their literary festivals are marvellous too – it’s how I found the library. I did an event at the Sept festival in 2014. Re-read this and realised I might come across as a total ego-maniac… the festivals attract some interesting authors and I felt honoured to be part of it, as opposed to the festival was great ‘cos I was there!

    • It’s okay, I knew what you meant! Again, festivals are one of those things I want to get into. I’ve lived in Cambridgeshire for 8 years and still not even been to the Cambridge one (although they do always seem to be on weeks when I’m Literacy Coordinating and can’t get time off). A New Year’s resolution in the making, I think 🙂


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