Zana’s In The Garden This Year

Today’s guest on the Virtual Swanwick blog will be a familiar face to all Swanwickers. Zana Lamont, together with her husband John, has acted as host for guest speakers for many years. And in addition, she is single-handedly responsible for calming so many people down when the stress and excitement gets too much, as she explains below.

Good morning, Zana, and thank you for dropping by. Will you please start by telling us a bit about yourself and your writing?

I have had a number of jobs/careers over the years. My first was as an interpreter in a whisky investment company. Very unusual to get a job with languages in Glasgow in the 70s. I taught English in Spain and Spanish and French in Scotland. Later, when my children were young, I also taught ante-natal classes, helping women connect with their breath and their bodies. I was an osteopath and massage therapist and then co-ran a school with John for nearly twenty years, training therapists. I am also a qualified counsellor. I used to think I must not be very good at anything because I kept changing careers, but I came to understand that they were all pieces of the jigsaw that is ME today. I now teach somatic-based Mindfulness and Compassion courses for adults and teenagers, and I feel I’ve come home!

I don’t consider myself a writer, although I did write technical materials for our training school. I love poetry and have written a few but wouldn’t rush to share them! I’m quite good at doggerel but haven’t ever seen courses in that being run at Swanwick!! The few times that I have spent a day on a creative writing course, I have been pleasantly surprised at what landed on the page, so maybe that is something to explore more.

I know you’ve been going to Swanwick for a long time. What’s your connection with the school. 

I first became aware of Swanwick through Katy Clarke. She and I used to go to a 5-Rhythms dance class once a week for a while. When John and I got together he was keen to do some writing around his family history and was also drawn to comedy (you may have noticed he likes telling the odd joke)! Katy was Chair of Ayr Writers Club at the time, so he started going there. She suggested he would love Swanwick and he went for the first time in 2000. He used to give a lift to Katy, Rowena, Fiona McFadzean and possibly others. Katy invited me to go too but I declined saying, ‘No, this is John’s thing’. After four more years of invitations and seeing photos of everyone sitting on the lawn, I gave in, and the rest is history, as they say, so this year would have been my seventeenth, which I can hardly believe.

I was lucky enough to be invited to present one-hour workshops, a two-part course and a four-parter. It was during the latter that the idea of Unwind Your Mind was born. Some people were stressing out because they were going to so many courses and trying to do all the suggested exercises as well. ‘We just don’t have the time and we’re exhausted by dinner time’ was the common cry. As we know, the evenings at Swanwick are as full and rich as the days so it seemed a good idea to create a little gap, a space where we could invite our busy thinking minds to take time out and to settle into our bodies and rest. We could also invite the body that had been sitting on a chair for much of the day to move a little in a kind and gentle way, perhaps with some t’ai ji , or through asking the body exactly how it needed to stretch. Our bodies are very intelligent and they know the answer!

The Hayes very kindly let me use the Chapel and the atmosphere there is so lovely and peaceful and definitely helps the mind unwind. Sometimes we just listen to lovely music, through the fabulous sound system, and practise lying on the floor! Hopefully people leave feeling refreshed and re-energised.

After dinner speakers are a highlight of the week at Swanwick. Given an unlimited budget and access to any writer, living or dead, who would you invite to speak?

Which writer would I invite to be an after-dinner speaker? That is a hard one. A book that I enjoyed during lockdown is Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, by Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia. I think it would strike a chord with Swanwickers. It is believed everyone has an ikigai – a reason to jump out of bed each morning – and it is divided into four sections: What you love; What you are good at; What the world needs; and What you can be paid for.

And finally, Zana, give us a picture that represents VS2021 to you, and tell us why.

We are a group of friends, all very different, but connected – perhaps through writing – but certainly through heart. Even though we are not physically in the same place this year, we can still sit together and feel that connection.

Some wonderful sentiments there, Zana. I look forward to practising lying on the floor with you next year!

Folks, a reminder of today’s programme at Virtual Swanwick: Lift Up Your Pens (Facebook from 9am); Random Dice Roll Writing Game with Helen (Facebook 11am); Worldbuilding with Mark (Facebook sometime during the day); Evening speaker: Neil Gaiman (YouTube whenever you like).

By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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