spain

October Newsletter

Write It Down! Spain 2019 is over – Bring on 2020!

Afternoons are for dreaming and writing

Afternoons are for dreaming and writing

It feels like Elaine has given me a precious gift that will last a lifetime – the confidence to write and the understanding of how to write. Where I thought I had nothing to say, I now feel that my life is significant enough to write my memories and that I can do this for the rest of my life. I have found my voice and feel renewed and empowered.’ Siobhan

The most perfect holiday. I have felt so looked after and nurtured. A life affirming combination of walking, meditation, writing and food in a beautiful house and location. Thank you, Elaine.’ Kate

We are thrilled to announce that we have been chosen by Guardian Travel as one of their TOP TEN LIFE-CHANGING RETREATS WORLDWIDE plus Finca Buenvino, our Andalucian farmhouse home, has been chosen as one of Alastair Sawday’s 25 Favourite Places To Stay in Europe.


Now October is here, and that means saying goodbye to Finca Buenvino for 2019. Thank you to Sam, Jeannie, Charlie and Jago Chesterton for being the very best hosts any writing group could ever wish for. This year has been wonderful – and as ever, we have shared lots of laughter, some tears and much, much brilliant writing.

BUT no need to fret! As we have confirmed dates for 2020. Booking has now started so, I know everyone says this, but I do advise you to book early to guarantee a place. Buenvino has five exquisite bedrooms, all with private bathrooms and glorious views, some available to share and groups are limited to seven guests to ensure that everyone gets the appropriate encouragement, nurturing and attention.

Here’s the link for more info: http://write-it-down.co.uk/spain 

2020 Dates

Saturday 20th – Saturday 27th June

Saturday 4th – Saturday 11th July

Saturday 5th – Saturday 11th September

Prices:
£1800 twin room

£2200 private room

Prices include all expenses, minus travel to/from Seville.

Once in a while, you have a holiday experience that you know will stay with you for a very long time. Buenvino and Elaine’s retreats are a magical combination.’ Francesca
Elaine’s calm, positive encouragement is infectious. The combination of beautiful, tranquil surroundings, a stunning property, relaxing meditations, hugely interesting walks and thoughtful and diverse writing sessions all serve to make this a truly inspiring experience.’ Sue

Hope to see you in Andalucia in 2020!

The Power Of Nature To Heal

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Photo of the Sierra De Aracena by Charlie Chesterton, chef at Finca Buenvino. Follow him on Instagram @foodsunandfun

I’m writing this in a café in north London, down wind from the peppery scent of their Christmas tree. Outside, the sky is blue and the sun shines.

I want to go and play outside, Mum!

Every year it’s the same – every year I’m crawling the walls by December, desperate for sun and fresh air, and yet the answer is in my own hands. Not more extra spending on a possibly-effective SAD light, but getting my butt moving; wrap up, shape up and get out of doors. And not to Savers, Sainsbury’s or another ‘indoors’ but really OUT, OUT.

Whatever the weather.

As a child I found such happiness spending whole days outside –looking after the cows on a near-by dairy farm, searching for shells on the beach, roaming the fields on the family allotment, deep in the Hampshire countryside. All places where I could escape into my imagination, undisturbed by my parents or siblings and find peace and happiness Now, I want a life more in walking boots and waterproofs and less in make-up and outfits socially acceptable for city-living. I want mud. I want to feel my heart race as I climb a hill or mountain and my spirits soar as I reach the summit and gasp at the landscape before me.

The power of the natural world to heal and inspire  is something I need to remember in the dark, indoors days of winter in the Northern hemisphere. Plus now there’s digital help at our fingertips. I’ve joined a Whatsapp group called ‘Nature Therapy Counsel’ which encourages the sharing of photos of the natural landscape. There’s  the website Spirit Of The Trees which ‘provides poetry, folk tales, myths for tree lovers’ and as I type, on my laptop  I have my headphones plugged into a Youtube tape of 11 Hours of  Tranquil Birdsong.

Author Matt Haig was quoted in the Guardian Review recently, in relation to his experience of depression, saying, ‘…the day I realised I was going to be OK was the April after my breakdown, the sun came out and I almost felt a literal weight being lifted.’  And I’ll will be OK too, when the higher light levels return. In May, I’m back in wooded landscape of  the Sierra De Aracena National Park in Andalucia to run writing retreats and there we’ll spend almost all day outside -  meditation sessions, writing workshops, guided walks and eating lunch and dinner – but in the meantime I must  take more advantage of London’s myriad of parks and wild spaces for my mental health, whatever the weather. ‘Tis verily the season for bringing the greenery in but I need to get out as well.

This poem by the American author and poet Wendell Berry is my Christmas gift to you:

When despair for the world grows in me 

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, 

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. 

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.’

© Wendell Berry.  From “The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry”

Autumn Celebration

A time to say thank you…

Sam Chesterton, owner of Finca Buenvino, arranging flowers for the drawing room

Sam Chesterton, owner of Finca Buenvino, arranging flowers for the drawing room

Elaine, you are an inspirational teacher and I wish you could have been the course leader on my MA! You’ve encouraged us all with such sensitivity, perception, creativity and fun that I’ll always want to go on writing! Thank you for interconnecting with us all on a deep level and sharing your life and talents with us.

We have had a wonderful year at Finca Buenvino in 2018 - filled with laughter, love, generosity and gratitude. We have met so many new writers and taken such great pleasure in sharing with them the superb hospitality and food of Sam, Jeannie and Charlie Chesterton - introducing them to the high hills of the Andalucian landscape, the joys of sharing mealtimes, guided walks, mindfulness meditation sessions and of course, the transformational power of writing down our lives in notebooks.

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The infinity, salt-water pool which overlooks the Sierra De Aracena Y Picos De Aroche National Park. Finca Buenvino sits in 150 wooded acres which we explore every day, always taking time to sit and write sensory observations and stories in our small notebooks which we carry everywhere.

I will leave it up to comments from my writers on our September week to explain the benefits of a Write It Down! holiday at BV. Thanks to all of them and to everyone who has joined me during the last four years. We will be back here in May, June and September 2019.

The teaching method’s were superb; constant gentle nudges that got you out of your comfort zone and made your heart and mind wake-up and produce writing that I didn’t know was there - non-judgemental, sensitive, fun, very creative and caring to us all. I would recommend this holiday to anyone interested in writing.’ Heather.
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Elaine’s teaching created a very good team spirit, pushed us a little so we could all get a lot from the course but did so with humour throughout that was always encouraging. This holiday has finally got me started on a long held resolve to start writing - it was a very enjoyable, relaxing and therapeutic experience. David.

The Orgasm Tree

Finca Buenvino amongst the sweet chestnuts. Photo by Jenni Bradbury.

Finca Buenvino amongst the sweet chestnuts. Photo by Jenni Bradbury.

Very often, we begin a conversation with a friend on one subject and progress rapidly to something completely different, discovering on the way the most illuminating information.

 This happened to me last week. I was describing the climate at Finca Buenvino in Andalucia, where we run our writing holidays. I explained that whatever the temperature in the summer months, we can always walk because of the shade of the cork oaks and sweet chestnut trees that cover the dehesa - the wooded landscape of the Sierra de Aracena National Park.

‘Oh!’ my friend exclaimed, ‘That’s why the atmosphere is so beneficial for writing and meditation up there! That’s why your writers find it so empowering to stay there. Sweet chestnut’s a well known Bach flower remedy for encouraging new beginnings, transformation into a new and much better life. It’s a treatment for the "dark night of the soul," the despair of those who feel they have reached the limit of their endurance, it’s for a time when old beliefs and patterns break apart and make room for new levels of consciousness. It is the perfect treatment for when you are ready to open up to the light at the end of the tunnel, the light before the new dawn.’ Buenvino certainly has a magical aire, everyone remarks upon this. When I told her that the flowers of the sweet chestnut purportedly smelt like semen, she laughed. ‘Ah yes, it’s known as the orgasm tree because it produces such a surge of transformative emotions!’

The trees blossom in June, we’re there from the 16 -23...do join us.

Why Spending Time and Money on Yourself is Essential

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Often,  the responses I get from writers on my workshops or retreats are, ‘This feels such a treat, such an indulgence, having time to myself, being given permission to write.’

In these frantic, challenging and guilt-inducing times when we can feel powerless to affect the bigger picture, nurturing our bodies and feeding our minds is even more important. And writing it down, bearing witness, leaving a written record on paper for future generations to read, handle, hold and treasure is a duty. Not an indulgence, far, far from it. It replenishes our self-belief and self-esteem, as much as it informs and encourages others. Remember John Aubrey, the 'father of lifewriting' and his insistence of 'writing down the minutiae of life'. All our lives matter, not just those of celebrities, politicians or cultural heroes.

This is a piece that I wrote recently  for Alyson Walsh’s blog That’s Not My Age, for older women with style. I hope to meet many of you on my writing retreats in Spain at Finca Buenvino this summer, writing down your lives and enjoying a whole week of indulgence! 

I’m at my favourite hairdresser’s, in charity-shop top and jeans, spending a ridiculous amount on a cut and colour. The guaranteed boost to my fragile self-confidence will be well worth it. Tomorrow I will pay to have my toe nails painted, even though my bathroom needs re-grouting and the tap has a terrible drip. My saloneyebrow maintenance ritual is a non-negotiable expense, I love the therapist’s gentle attention. Last night I booked a three-week runaway to Crete in August, after weeping buckets at the Charmed Life in Greece free exhibition at the British Museum about the friendships between writer Patrick Leigh Fermor and artists John Craxton and Niko Ghika. God knows how I’ll pay for the care home now. What I once believed were indulgences have become essential mental maintenance.

My kitchen blind is held up with drawing pins and I really must paint my bedroom walls but tell me to invest in a new kitchen bin and I glaze over and buy another novel. I’ve been to the cinema more times in the past month than in the past year and my addiction to Eventbrite is causing concern. My membership of the Tate costs a bomb but visits are intellectually invigorating. So many places to go, people to see, lessons to learn.

Is it my age that is causing me to fast-track through life, sucking up sensual experiences, ignoring practical concerns? Is it the global political uncertainties? Fear of impending climate melt-down? Or is it the realisation, at 68, that it is not selfish to nurture myself? That feeding my brain, my creativity and my self-esteem may pay dividends in the fight against dementia, helps me in my work and in my relationships? Yes, I must attend to the mundane, pay the direct debits and remember to eat more fruit and veg but worrying about the what-ifs in five, 10 or 15 years hence seems a pointless exercise if I don’t cherish myself today.