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SHWI Getaway III: This Time it’s Personal

So once again I have returned from the SHWI Getaway. I am writing my account of the weekend from my sofa, curtains closed on the beautiful sunny day outside, swaddled in my classy brown  dressing gown and jogging bottoms, RuPaul’s Drag Race soothingly providing the background noise, a Square crisp sandwich and a can of Diet Coke on the table in front of me. Basically, this year, rather than trying to recreate the atmosphere of the weekend through words, I am stubbornly refusing to believe that I am not in Currer Laithe and am actually attempting to physically re-enact farm life. I think I’m doing pretty well. I have the comfy clothes, hangover beverage, ‘nutritious’ food sources and a load of beautiful cross-dressers in my eye-line (more of which to come)…

Photo by Seven Hills WI

As usual, Friday night was pot luck buffet night. As usual, there was too much food. And as usual it was fitness personified. I hope you don’t think I’m being a bit blasé in skimping on my description of a SHWI pot luck supper, because as we know, there ain’t no buffet like a SHWI-made buffet (slogan copyright A. Pilson, SHWI Getaway 2 blog post, 2014). However, if I start raving about every dish, I’ll never stop! Suffice to say, we had enough left over for Carolyne and Tebble’s Patented Packed Lunches the next day. So what of the evening’s entertainment? Well, as usual, ice-breaker games took place, as usual they were, er, revelatory and as usual, I will decline to divulge any further information and move swiftly on…

The gang at the Bronte Parsonage

 A rainy Saturday saw us heading back to Haworth and revisiting the Bronte Parsonage for a talk and walk. Despite having visited the Parsonage on our first Getaway, we heard a completely original talk on the Bronte family, thanks to the fantastically knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff member who led our activities. We enjoyed listening to tales of the lives and personalities of each of the Bronte family, as well as discussing our perceptions of the picture sources in the presentation and I personally was chuffed to drool over the Lord Byron pics. He kind of reminds me of a cross between Mr Darcy, Henry Cavill and Michael Fassbender…sigh. Anyway, I digress. By the time we had finished our talk, the drizzle had done one and we were able to enjoy a guided walking tour of the village, taking in some of the Brontes’ favourite haunts. These included the spot where Charlotte used to secretly rendez-vous with her future husband Arthur Bell Nicholls, who was initially perceived as undesirably too low-class a match for Charlotte. A little like Charlotte’s most famous heroine, Jane Eyre, and Mr Rochester but in reverse, if you will.

Photo by Ellie Last

 Whilst I would love to continue with my literary musings further, alas I must revert to detailing the weekend. Although, I’d just like to point out that if we accept that Kirsty is SHWI’s own amalgamation of Michael Winner and Jay Rayner due to her take-no-prisoners judging role on the Great British Menu (and swarthy good looks, of course), then through that critique I must SURELY qualify as our own Mark Kermode? What with my retro (i.e. dated) hairdo and dead good knowledge of films and that. DISCLAIMER: I was going to compare myself to one of the world’s premiere literary critics, but, erm, I couldn’t think of one, so I turned to my trusty pal Google. That came up with the name Salvatore Quasimodo and I just couldn’t see ANY similarities between me and that namesake AT ALL. AND NEITHER CAN ANY OF YOU, ALRIGHT? AND YES, I’M AWARE THAT JANE EYRE IS A BOOK BUT THERE HAVE BEEN ABOUT 20 MILLION FILM VERSIONS OF THE VARIOUS BRONTE WORKS, SO I CAN GET AWAY WITH LINKING IT TO CINEMA, OK? Phew, glad we got that straight.

Now where were we? Ah yes, Saturday night… Our fancy dress theme for this year was men. Yeah, you read it correctly, men. I mean, given that this year has been all about celebrating the wonders of sisterhood through the WI centenary, it seemed only right that we acknowledged that men have done some decent stuff too – through the respectful medium of drag, naturally. And who’d have thought given the delicate femininity that exudes from the pores of every SHWI member (moi especially), that we’d make such HOT blokes? We had historical hunks (Thor), geektastic guys (Einstein), movie men (Rambo, Garth Algar and Frank N Furter), literary lads (the Bard himself), AND (tenuous phonics alert) tuneful chaps (The King, Freddie Mercury, Conchita Wurst, Adam Ant), televisual todger-owners – GROAN, jeez Pilson – (including the Hoff, Father Ted Crilly, Marcus Wareing, Michael O’Hare, 118 man, Richard O’Brien) and, OF COURSE, no evening would be complete without a sexy drag mermaid.

Photo by Ellie Last

Saturday night proved to be a potentially life-changing experience for me. Firstly I immediately began to question my sexuality when I saw Grace’s ruff (snigger). Honestly, who knew Shakespeare was so damn shexy? (Imagine this said in Sean Connery voice and then the spelling makes sense, honest guv). But it must be stated, I was certainly not the only one to find my hormones pulsing in a most unexpected manner. In fact, it turned out that I, as Marcus Wareing, was responsible for most of the, er, ‘confusion’ felt by some of the ladies. Look, I’ll be blunt – it turns out I am one damn fine specimen of manhood. Who’d have thought during all these years of waging a constant battle against my body hair, that if I’d just let it grow to its hirsute heart’s content I’d have been a STUD? All I can say is I’ve never felt more like myself than when wearing chef whites, having a face-full of stubble and bellowing in my best angry Cockney accent. Sigh…

Grace and Sam the sheep dog – Photo by Ellie Last

 Once again, I’m afraid I cannot reveal any more of the night’s shenanigans, so I shall move onto Sunday (but I’ve got to just say: Holly, Tebble, Corinne – Marcus enjoyed your moves). The order of the day was a lazy morning for some, a trip to Saltaire for others and some serious veg prep for the rest. This toil resulted in a once-again EPIC Sunday roast, with particular props going to the team for the care taken to cater for us veggies, many thanks. This year quite a few people had to depart on the Sunday evening, leaving a small group of us to enjoy a quiet evening of reflection. By which of course I mean we caned the Singstar for approximately 5 hours. We discovered that most people had fairly decent pipes on them, that Zoe is now probably addicted to karaoke and that pretty much any song can be improved if performed in an angry Cockney or jaunty German accent…

So Monday arrived and due to clock-change confusion, we ended up leaving mega-early. But it’s probably for the best given that every year it gets harder to leave. For serious, man. So once again HUGE thanks to Kirsty and Grace for their organisation skills and thanks to all the ladies (and gents) for their fantastic company. I feel massively privileged to have been lucky enough to attend all 3 Getaways so far and feel that I should probably be magnanimous enough in 2016 to stand back and let others attend. HAAAAAAAA! AS IF! Roll on Getaway 4! Because, to be honest, the fact that I have to be female to attend the SHWI Getaway is pretty much the only thing stopping me hotfooting it to Tijuana to get the op to turn into Marcus full time…

Photo by Laura Bainbridge

By Anna Pilson Committee Member


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