Yesterday, Bill Breckon took me for a tour of the grounds here at The Watermill in Posara. It seems that 22 years ago he came to Italy to buy a flat in Florence and accidentally fell in love with the cluster of buildings he, his wife Lois and their two daughters Lara and Lydia, call home and I call my ‘office’ – for this week at last.
Imagine the surreal luxury of having to choose whether to conduct my lessons on the vine terrace, on the lawn, in the ‘festa’ ground, by the sluice or at what Marion now calls Inspiration Corner? On Tuesday we’ve thrown Bill’s itinerary to the wind and tipped our schedule upside down and have decided to visit the local market, lunch in the square and do our lessons under the camouflage of the plane trees.
I keep catching myself saying such travesties as, “as I’m on holiday, I may as well have a glass of wine with lunch.” Only this is not my holiday, I’m teaching, giving feedback and doing private one on ones and then, when it’s supposed to be siesta time for me and homework time for them, I’m here at my laptop too inspired and buzzy to listen to the meditation App on my iPhone.
I have a confession to make. This is the first residential course I have conducted. Of course, I’ve taught thousands of people over the years and run countless one day or morning classes, but this six days at a stretch is a new deal. I may have come here to teach but the place is so captivating and my students so fascinating (and the fresh, local food so moreish) that I’m having a hard time holing up in my room like I planned.
I want to be by the stream, watching the waterboatmen, skimming like skinny catarmarans, waiting for the thwack of another frog as he flops in from the bank. I am lured by the ripe green figs on the tree beside the bamboo walk, the purple grapes on the vines and by the temptation of a walk up the hill past peach trees, crushing wild mint beneath my flipflops. Furthermore, I’m increasingly hooked by the students’ stories of times of naughtiness they’ve been working on all day and that tonight we will share before aperitivi. I’ve already enjoyed listening to the beginnings of Marion’s story about the day she was mortified to have shouted at her father, and how ‘Cathy’ stole the special bar of Cadbury’s chocolate.
“Boy, your idea of naughtiness and mine are sooo different!” whispered Pamela, having just shared her story about growing up in Los Angeles that should have got her expelled from her school and with a police record to boot. I can’t wait to find out what happened in the end!
But we all have to wait til five to have the opportunity to hear everyone’s polished stories. Agony. I wonder whether those with the naughtiest stories will also be naughtiest about doing homework?
At one o’clock Bill rang the bell to signal lunch was ready. Rocket and tomato salad, bresaola, baked fennel with three cheese beckoned.
“After lunch. would you mind if I didn’t do my ‘naughty’ homework, but shared the first part of my ‘real’ memoir?” asked Laurence, standing up from the table, eager to get back to his room, laptop under his arm.
“No way!” said those who had already heard snippets of his story. “That is not fair. It’s too good.”
“Then you’ll just have to do both,” I decided magnanimously, wondering how on earth we’d fit it in.
“How about we do extra readings after dinner, with the limoncello?” suggested Terry-Anne. After all, we’ve managed to wangle adding a market trip to our week, we may as well pile on the fun. I wonder when we are going to fit sleep into our agenda.
I am reminded why residential courses and conferences are so cool, and why I love attending them myself, even when I am not teaching. It’s a full on 24-hour a day ‘inspiration injection’. Who needs sleep?