Gladys, the secretary, added my name to The Clock. Everyone's name was on the clock and Gladys had supreme control. If the finger pointed to your name, it was your turn to read. After you’d finished, Gladys moved the finger to the next name and so on, unless you had offended her, in which case the finger slipped. It managed to whizz past Doreen’s name for nearly two years because of some minor upset between these two ladies.
I remember Edmund who struggled with his creative talent, reducing the Circle to tears of laughter at one meeting, and at the next, turning up unshaven, scruffy and half-starved. And there was Graham, the treasurer, who wrote about nature and died while out horse-riding on the Malvern Hills.
These were The Old Ones, all intellectuals, all with something to say, all willing to help a new-comer. I listened in awe, to their work, their achievements and their advice. It was Roy Plumb who most inspired me. He would comment on my stories, giving advice and telling me he could see how much I loved words.
They are all dead now.
At the second meeting the finger reached my name. The piece I read was called, Coming Out. It was autobiographical, about me coming out of the closet and admitting that I wanted to be a writer. Written in the present tense, I told them how I couldn’t breathe for fear, how I had to undo the waistband of my skirt so that I wouldn’t faint, how knowing there were a couple of English teachers there was making matters worse. They laughed. It took a long time before I was able to read aloud without shaking, but the group supported and encouraged me - after all, I was the new baby in their midst.
By the time my second AGM came around I wanted to offer my services as Folio Editor. The Folio was always an awkward project. It was a collection of members’ work, with empty pages interleaved ready for written comments from the others. Back in the early days of the group they had sent the folio out to people such as Vita-Sackville West and George Bernard Shaw who had actually commented on each piece of work. The Folio could be kept by a reader for up to three days - in reality this often stretched into weeks - and then it was to be handed on, or posted, to the next on the list. As some past members who had moved away from the area still contributed, the folio could travel hundreds of miles before everyone had added their bit and the critiques were given out. The last I heard of it was back in 1985, when it was lost somewhere near Woodstock.
Episode three (final) same place, same time, next week.