I went to Warwickshire to meet Sarah Hosking on a sunny April morning. Friday 13th, to be precise! I am not a particularly superstitious person, in fact I thought it was funny that I should be going on such a supposedly dangerous day.
I had planned to have lunch on the way, but it took much longer to drive there than I thought and so I arrived ravenous, which is not the best way to start any interview. I parked by Clifford Manor, a beautiful old country house with a frighteningly straight path leading from the wrought iron gates up to the front door. I have to admit I felt rather like Alice for a moment and longed to push open the gate and walk up the path, but time was rushing on so I resisted the temptation and called Sarah Hosking on my mobile, as planned. She was just round the corner, having arrived back from a shopping trip – a bright eyed, clever woman who immediately offered me an egg to keep the hunger at bay. It wasn’t just any egg, but to my delight, it had come from one of her chickens, which she introduced me to on the way.
Her cottage garden was overflowing with beautiful flowers, dogs, cats and birds and I felt very much at home. Once inside, we sat down to eggs and toast and talked about life, the fellowship and the struggle to write and get on.
Sarah Hosking had founded the Trust in 1999 and it has been active since 2001. She is not a rich benefactress but had a dream to create this beautiful setting for women writers over forty to have money to live on and a place to write in solitude, and she worked extremely hard to make it happen through charitable donations and funding. The patrons of the Trust are the writer Marina Warner and the soprano Catherine Bott.
Church cottage is a delightful white washed building, nestled in beside the graveyard of St Helen’s Church in Clifford Chambers. This is the village where Shakespeare was really supposed to have been born because the bubonic plague was rife in Stratford at the time and the story goes that St Helen’s rectory was used as a refuge.
The history of the place all felt very exciting and the cottage looked like a blissful place to work. I gave Sarah Hosking my application letter and left feeling very high on it all!
As I sat watching a spectacular Twelfth Night at the theatre that night I hugged to myself the possibility of the fellowship.