"My idea of good company," says Anne in Jane Austen's Persuasion, "is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company." Add to it, a trip to Penrith, a few well-informed lectures, and one or two roll-on-the floor funny ones (thank you, Rachel and Liz), and your cup overflows. It certainly regenerated the spirit. (I'll admit that there were overflowing spirits, too).
What other group of people would, very good naturedly, consent to dress up in rubbish bags? We did, indeed. And at the other end of the spectrum, listen spellbound to Hugo Summerson, a former MP, speak of flies, cabbages and kings (well, the aristocracy, at any rate)?
We looked at feet, since our smiling chairperson Katie Fforde's shoes feature in a competition, and at hands and heads (required in Liz Bailey's workshop). We were persuaded of the importance of wagon wheels and stop-watches in across-the-ocean favourite Jodi Thomas' heartwarming reflection on the four seasons of writing.
Wonderful as all the talks were, of course it is the in-between part which brings us to the RNA meetings -- the time when the volume of chatter rises up around us like a cocoon, shutting us away from the world outside and enveloping us in the world of words. In that world, we speak incessantly, and indulge in what, paradoxically, brings us together: the love of words, and the romance we have with language.
Next year in Greenwich!
For more on the Romantic Novelists' Association, visit the RNA blog and the RNA website.