Glowing Testimonials on our 2019 Writing Hols at Finca Buenvino

Just in case you’re still deliberating on whether Write It Down! writing, walking and meditation holidays at Finca Buenvino are RIGHT for you, are worth the money or the effort involved, whether you would fit in or be able to write [because you're not a 'writer']…may I suggest that you take a couple of minutes to read what our guests say about last year and then grab the last few spaces I have left?

I promise it will change your life. Many, many thanks to you wonderful women from all over the world who have contributed. Link to book:

Absolutely wonderful programme of events. I liked how they unfolded and we ended up doing types of writing e.g poem, scary story, etc- things I never thought I could try. Felt challenged but in a really supportive environment and NOT having the schedule in advance made me relax much more. Thanks Elaine, you have made me feel so much better about writing. I was feeling stressed about it for so long and I feel so much happier. I loved the teaching and your energy and enthusiasm for life and for writing.’ Yasminah.

‘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 fell renewed and empowered.’ Siobhan.

‘Elaine’s dedication, her background and experience all meant she was an excellent facilitator and could get us all doing things and writing things we didn’t believe we were capable of. She was never pushy or patronising.’ Lesley

‘Elaine guides you skilfully as you discover your writing ‘voice’ – it’s a week of nurturing your self and your talent in a friendly, non-competitive and secure environment. You’ll certainly emerge from your time at Finca Buenvino feeling creatively energised and physically unwound.’ Lesley.

‘Elaine’s calm positive encouragement is infectious, she has an amazing ability to inspire and build confidence. 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. The infinity pooll, fabulous food and a sense of being totally spoilt.’ Sue.

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. Clearly so much love and thought and care has gone into this week.’ Kate.

‘What I didn’t expect from the retreat was how each day would be so thoughtfully crafted to include the importance of experiencing  what makes for a good life – delicious food, a beautiful room, good company, natural beauty, walking and swimming – and how feeling cared for and relaxed would unleash such creativity, reflection and a genuine opening up, all pouring out on the page through each writing exercise. Elaine has created the ideal writing environment in which to learn what it is to be a writer.’ Nitasha.

‘Elaine is a force of nature and a fantastic teacher – her enthusiasm and encouragement have been so helpful given I was feeling rather insecure about the whole writing thing. Once in a while, you have a holiday experience that you know will stay will stay with you for a very long time. Buenvino and Elaine’s retreats are a magical combination.’ Francesca

‘Thank you, Elaine for a most wonderful week. It’s truly given me a new outlook on writing – less forced, more fun – and I’ll bring with me warm memories spent with everyone in this magical place.’ Lisa

‘The retreat is excellent in so many ways. Elaine presents with care and knowledge and elicits extraordinary responses from the group. It sounds clichéd but I have grown and changed through participating. Highly recommended.’ Anne.

NB: I was brought up to ‘not be the centre of attention’, to not be ‘full of myself’, not boast, continuously reminded that ‘pride goes before a fall’ and ‘children should be see and not heard’ BUT if this post encourages you to discover the wonders of Buenvino and the therapeutic power of writing down your life and sharing your stories – so be it! All I ask is that you are fit enough to walk up and down steep paths in the Sierra and pack your sense of adventure. See you in Sevilla in the summer…










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The Stories Our Clothes Can Tell

Outer Hebrides 2012

When I recently suggested on Instagram that I was charity-shopping this jacket, the response was immediate,

‘Not the orange puffa!’

First spotted in the wilds of Cornwall in 2010, my Uniqlo men’s orange puffa has been my soulmate for nigh on a decade. I even took it to Antigua in 2011, it gets cold on ‘planes,  I’d just come out of a relationship and I needed its hug. It has featured in so many of my adventures online and was the epitome of a Comfort Blanket. Last year I used it as a pillow when I was camping at Port Eliot. Yes, I have replaced it with a longer, Nike version but also, my life has changed.

The psychological importance of clothing should never be underestimated. From the smell of your dad’s sweater to the pulling power of a favourite 80s outfit, I venture to suggest that everything hanging in your wardrobe has stories to tell. Sorting through my stuff for moving is like re-reading old diaries. That Zara black trouser suit that I bought especially for  a wedding and now they don’t talk to me anymore. Leopardskin ankle ankle boots given by an ex who ‘wanted to buy me something to wear’ and then sent me a picture of a whole rail of age-inappropriate Topshop purchases. I kept the boots. I have some of my children’s Fiorucci and Nipper clothing, an Edwardian bustle skirt bought at a car boot sale in Brighton…without doubt, there is much that won’t get worn again but it is a tangible part of my family history and the smells and touch evoke a myriad of memories.

When I buy something new, I have to make friends with it before I wear it. Stare at it in the wardrobe, like new Clarks leather school sandals sleeping in a tissue lined box in the corner of my childhood bedroom. I don’t trust these new arrivals. They have an attitude that isn’t mine and I have to understand it.

Age eventually flattened the puffa; the recommended machine washes were gentle but the down gradually disappeared and I had to help it out and  wear another jacket underneath to  keep  me warm. It tried its best but I watched it die. Ten years of love, ten years of adventures. A whole big, fat chapter of my life.

The Nike usurper trying its best in Broadstairs.

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Selling my flat in London and moving to a rented, furnished room in Seville means that once again, I need to sort out my STUFF. But when you’re a single parent, however old your kids, their stuff is your stuff until they buy places of their own which nowadays, means never.

I have friends who have lived in the same house for more than 40 years and have a loft, cellar and sheds. Not for them the decisions on whether six tea towels are excessive in a drawer or if clothes un-worn for a year are not pulling their weight. I have moved nine times in the large 20 years, hauling my kids and my late husband’s memorabilia the length and breath of England. Shelves of vinyl, piles of The Face and Rolling Stone magazines, plastic boxes full of school work, files of my husband’s advertising storyboards and a hammock never used since it was bought in Brighton in 1997. This time the Sylvanians, Lego and Stars Wars are not coming with me.

I’m leaving the UK because I want to find out who I can be at 70. In many ways, I want to start anew and although I respect my past, I don’t want it staring me in the face every day, reminding me of those halcyon days when I was a married mother of three with a Volvo, a range cooker and a Border Terrier. New adventures beckon and I want to travel light.

Over the years, I have proved to myself that I can make a nest anywhere and, as long as I have season-appropriate clothing, a notebook and pen, functioning smart phone and hearing-aid batteries, I can survive. I will store my notebooks, diaries and family photographs. Art will be distributed to offspring or stored. I’m planning a book sale because they weigh so much but I know I will keep too many. It’s the random objects that will be packed with love. A Mallorcan liquor bottle in the shape of a woman in traditional dress, a glass-topped box full of pieces of rope, crystals, mule shoes and bits of fabric that I picked up on a trek in Morocco, my father’s only  stuffed toy – a Fox Terrier dog that must be at least 80 years old. My mother’s weighing scales. Birthday, Mother’s Day and Christmas cards from my kids and a blue and white hand woven cloth that I bought in Bulgaria.

All this and more can sleep snugly in storage until I find my next permanent home and for the moment, I have no idea where that is.



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Writing Holidays in Spain and Workshops in London 2020


A quick up-date on availability for my writing, walking and meditation holidays this year at in the fabulous, undiscovered natural landscape of the Sierra De Aracena, north of Seville in Andalucia;

20th-27th June 2020 FULL

4th – 11th July 2020 – three private rooms available

5th-12th September 2020 – two private rooms available

Link to book:

London Workshops:

I shall be running two evening writing workshops with mindfulness meditation in N16 in February:

Wednesday 19th Feb  8pm-10pm – four spaces left

Wednesday 26th Feb 8pm-10pm – four spaces left


To book: email



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Change Is Good – Why I’m Moving To Spain

It’s usually the kids that go off travelling but this time, it’s the mother.

I’m selling-up in London and swanning off to Spain. Not to the Costa Packet with it’s plethora of cafés serving up Brit food to Leave voters, but the passionate heartland of Andalucia, Seville – where in summer, cafés pump out water vapour over the terraces to cool down the customers and dinnertime is nearly bedtime. If Europe won’t come to me, I will go to it.

Was I pushed or did I jump? Neither, sometimes everything falls into place and you know it’s time.  Are my friends and family in shock? No, to be honest, I’ve talked about moving from my bolt hole in Stoke Newington for so long that the majority of my friends are probably bored stupid with me harping on about it. But the options were always a return to Brighton or a walk on the wild side in St Leonards. Of course, like the rest of us, I’ve gazed in wonder at estate agents boards each time I visited my brother in the Lot-et-Garonne, ‘Only €50 for that enormous, run-down chateau!’ But France has never held my heart, despite their superior patisserie. I lived in Italy for four years in a previous incarnation and the southern European heat,  energy and delight in a boisterous public celebration of almost anything has always been much more my style.

My adult children would definitely benefit from more miles between us. I did fall in love and move to Cornwall 14 years ago but that didn’t work out and seems it wasn’t far enough. Since the death of my husband in 2000  we have lived in each other’s pockets far too much and now, single for five years, all my high days and holidays have been spent with my sons and daughter. I do realise how lucky I am and am eternally grateful but I need to let them go.  With no grandchildren, no partner and no pets, as I friend remarked, I am unfettered. To be honest, it sounds a bit too close to ‘unhinged’ but there may be some truth in that.

Is it crazy at the age of 70, with a history of heart disease, breast cancer, two hearing aids, two cataract ops and various gynae rearrangements to forsake the NHS, ditch my Freedom pass and live in a furnished rental, probably with no lift, in a city where I don’t speak the language? Ladies and gentlemen, may I draw your attention to bears in the woods…

But my E111 medical card will function until December 31st 2020 #allegedly and my phone has free roaming so what else does a woman need? Apart from manzanilla and the opportunity to learn flamenco?

Understandably, there’s maybe an element of wishful thinking in the responses of some of my friends. Later in life, a woman can more easily become a carer – for her partner, a parent or her grandchildren and I am, in many ways, in an enviable position. My work as a writer, workshop and retreat leader means I can operate anywhere there are English speakers so I’m writing lists, speaking to storage places and financial advisors and trying to persuade my kids to take temporary possession of the olive tree, the enormous coffee table and far too many books.


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Why Do I Teach Writing For Wellbeing?

I was thrilled recently to be interviewed by Lapidus International – the words for well being association of which I am a member, for their latest journal.

Why do you believe in the importance of writing down your life?

Primarily, from personal experience and subsequently, from studying and reading scientific research on the subject plus witnessing evidence in my workshops and on my writing retreats of the transformative effects of writing down one’s story and when sharing it with others. I discovered the benefit of expressing myself on paper when I wasn’t allowed to speak up as a child, it gave me a way to say what was forbidden, to finish a sentence without interruption! It was a way to find my own voice.

Have you always kept a diary?

Yes – in many different forms. I have a 5-year diary that I kept from 13-18, rough books and art school sketch books, Filofaxes, diaries and notebooks.

What do you believe are the benefits of having a journal?

They are my friends, my constant, comforting companions. I am completely lost without a small notebook and pen in my bag. I use them – and encourage others to use them – for shopping and packing lists, sticking in receipts, feathers, dried flowers, addresses, ‘phone numbers, asking open-ended questions, expressing hopes, fears, anger and desires, observations on daily life and then, in years to come – for reflection. I also use them for creativity – ideas for features, blog posts or writing poetry. Discovering a few years ago that scientific research confirmed the therapeutic benefits was reassuring. Also, I believe we all have a duty to keep a written record of our experiences for sociological reasons. All lives matter, the minutiae matters, as the antiquarian and biographer John Aubrey told us in the 17th century.

What effect did finding your parents’ diaries and letters have on you?

I understood and empathised more with their lives. My mother shared very little about herself with me, not even telling me her age. I had a very difficult childhood and felt unloved and unwanted. I saw more clearly their different backgrounds and felt more able to love people who had found it difficult to show their love for me. The diaries also inspired me to start my business Write It Down! in 2011.

You run writing, mindfulness meditation and guided walking holidays and workshops – why do these things go well together?

All these elements encourage participants to slow down, to use all their senses and observe and accept the world and their place in it, without feeling the need to change anything. They are a way to celebrate our lives and acknowledge and be grateful for what we have, in this very moment, on this very day. They give people permission to sit or walk in silence and allow their subconscious gently to emerge onto the page, without the distractions of everyday life and in the safety of a secure and non-judgemental environment

What makes a Write It Down! retreat so magical?

What makes it work is the combination of the location and the generous welcome from the family who own the hotel and farm plus my passionate belief that everyone is a writer with a unique voice and has an valuable and interesting life story that deserves to be shared and recorded on paper with a pen.

The retreats foster an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect – they are uncritical, supportive and celebratory. No previous writing experience is needed and they are not about spelling, punctuation, technique or publication. There is no wrong way to interpret any of the exercises I suggest and no pressure to share writing. I have found a location that is elegant and stylish but also unpretentious, inspirational and a great deal of fun! A small, five- bedroom family hotel and farm on a 150 acre private estate in a National Park in Andalucia. The food, the accommodation and natural landscape are superb. It is a nurturing, indulgent and empowering experience that enriches everyone’s lives and forges firm friendships. The positive effects of the week last and that is my intention

Tell us about the women’s and mothers’ workshops. Do you think it’s important to have a separate space for women?

I have run Evening Writing Salons and workshops for businesses such as the clothing brand TOAST that are open to all. The retreats are also not exclusively female. The mums, babies and bumps workshops came about because a group of friends who had recently become mothers asked me to facilitate a gathering and, over the years, the workshops have become a safe place for women to meet together and share the particular psychological, physiological, professional and sociological changes of maternity and motherhood. Without a doubt, male energy does affect the dynamic of a group, especially a small group, and perhaps I feel more comfortable with a group of women!

Do you have any workshops or projects that you’re most proud of?

I find every workshop a very moving and inspirational experience. It is a privilege to listen to anyone’s stories – many that have never been shared before. To bear witness to the increase in confidence in writing and ability to communicate, to use imagination and rediscover creativity – the realisation that that their life IS worth recording – is very humbling. I am enormously grateful that everyone puts their trust in me to hold the space and support them.


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How To Be 70: Part Three – Body Confidence

The saltwater infinity pool at Finca Buenvino, September 2019, during my 70th birthday celebrations with friends and family.

You see before you four women – 64, 44, 70 and 69. All in bikinis, and all standing proud. (And in my case, gripping on to the others and whimpering nervously incase I fell into the water…)

Every year I buy a swimsuit, and every year I don’t wear it. Every year I hear the voices, ‘At your age? Put it away, love.’ I really did think that this would be THE year – the year when I gave up the two-piece and hid behind the sticky, wet Lycra curtains of M&S’s best offering. At the beginning of this season I asked my 30-year-old daughter, ‘Do you think my guests will feel a bit uncomfortable seeing me in a bikini, rather than a swimsuit? Is it unprofessional?’ ‘Well, you could go and buy a new one, spend some money, go shopping?!’ She had a point but I hate shopping for clothes on- or offline. Most of my outfits are either charity shop, years old or inherited from my daughter’s ‘don’t want’ pile with the addition of the odd piece – yes, you Ganni orange lace – that I’ve spent a small fortune on for a special occasion. But that has worked out well on the cost-per-wear so guilt assuaged. The thought of spending the day in Westfield getting naked in blaringly-lit changing rooms made me feel decidedly queasy, so I gave in and decided to stick to the black Boden triangle top and Topshop bottoms that I acquired three years ago.

Earlier this year I was on the beach in Crete, where all shapes, sizes and ages of women were in bikinis. I was on the coast at Cãnos De Meca in Spain, too – bikinis, topless mostly, and some nude. When you get out in the sun, you realise that we are all gloriously imperfect, we all have bits and bobs that we worry about whether varicose veins, bingo wings, flabby tums or cellulite. Unless we are prepubescent, Photoshopped or ‘refreshed’ we will. It’s called life, pregnancy, ageing or just too many cream cakes and not enough jumping up and down. I want to try and convince you that it really does not matter what we wear as long as we are comfortable and I find swimsuits incredibly uncomfortable unless I’m attempting widths in a municipal pool. What is important is that we are alive and laughing and that we celebrate our friendships with other women because we are all in the same boat…and I do believe a brown tum is infinitely more attractive than a pasty white one, anyway. Vanity, thy name is Elaine.

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News & Dates – Writing Retreats Spain 2020

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

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: 

2020 Dates

Saturday 20th – Saturday 27th June

Saturday 4th – Saturday 11th July

Saturday 5th – Saturday 11th September

£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!

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How To Be 70: Part Two – Relationships

70 will be the first decade I’ll enter living alone.

I do recognise how lucky I’ve been, but I’m not one of those older people who states, ‘I’ve had a good life,’ and sees positivity and contentment only in past achievements.

@ 10: it was parents, brothers and random Labrador in Basingstoke.

@ 20: husband-to-be in West London.

@ 30: same husband and first son in Milan.

@ 40: same husband, two sons, one daughter, cat, hamster and guinea pig in Brighton.

@ 50: same husband, same children, different cat, new dog – still in Brighton but admittedly, husband was terminally ill in hospital in London.

@ 60: new partner and dog in Cornwall.

@ 70: spider plants, North London…

I am, by instinct, a woman who loves to feed and nurture others and I’ve channelled a lot of that into my work. Not yet having grandchildren wasn’t the only reason I started Mums, Babies & Bumps Writing Workshops but it has certainly brought me a lot of surrogate Granny joy. Plus I get to make cake.

My three kids have ricocheted backwards and forwards over the years, I’ve had male models as lodgers when my daughter was studying in Greece, and then she and her partner moved back in with me for a while which I loved.

Since January I’ve lived on my own for the first time in my life with only my over-indulged greenery to care for and it’s freaking me out.  I have been known to say goodnight to my reflection in the mirror. Lots of us have the single-living, single-life, learning-curve experience far earlier on, but my fear, last thing at night when I lay in the dark trying to go to sleep after turning off the light and stretching one arm out across the empty space beside me, is that this situation may be permanent.

This is not a gap that a dog, a cat or Airbnb can fill. Maybe I won’t share my living space with anyone again but I do want to share my life.

I have recently read White Houses by Amy Bloom. This beautifully written, lyrical novel, about reporter Lorena Hickok’s secret, enduring love affair with Eleanor Roosevelt and her tender, bittersweet and often witty descriptions of their gentle companionship and lovemaking, filled me with renewed yearning for the intimacy and joy that a good relationship can give. I’ve had a good marriage and some pretty dodgy relationships so I’m not as naïve as I was but I miss men and I want one of my own again.

So, ever the optimist (don’t groan you at the back), when I return from Spain at the end of the month, I’m going to get off my arse, go back on the dating apps, join groups and clubs and make the effort that my daughter, very wisely, encourages me continually to do. TBC, as they say…


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How To Be 70: Part One

My mum and I

Firstly, a disclaimer.

I have three more weeks of being 69 before I hit the gate.

 TB-perfectly-H, I’m amazed I’m still here. A well-spent youth of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll in the fashion business combined with the last nine years that have ushered in a heart attack, skin cancer and breast cancer – have certainly given the Grim Reaper a run for her money. They may have destroyed my hearing but not it seems, me.

’70? Means death,’ said a 70+ woman friend recently and that’s true in certain respects, my genealogy doesn’t bode well. My mother was 79 when she died, my father who preceded her by three months, probably a couple of years younger. I come from a generation whose parents disclosed nothing to their offspring, certainly not their innermost hopes, fears or chronology. I had to work out my mum’s age by subtracting the posting dates on her 21st birthday cards, discovered in her loft after she died, from the date of her death – which I had to double-check with my younger sister. Maybe Alzheimer’s is waiting at the door…

I have no idea how to be 70, it’s approach scares me like no other decade – it seems to demand a certain level of maturity and sobriety, of slowing down and of adopting a different demeanour, and maybe wardrobe, that I really don’t have – or want. It screams OLD at me and suddenly, I worry that a frock that shows my knees is an affront to public decency.

I’m writing this on a flight to Seville to run two writing holidays [apologies, Greta] and have committed myself to running three again next year; plus workshops in UK and an investigation into long-weekend retreats in Italy. Despite the technical challenges of modern marketing and my abhorrence of PDFs, Mailchimp, Squarespace, Excel et al, I’ve started and I will continue because I adore my work and luckily, it seems to make other people very happy as well.

Writing it down has always helped me clarify my thoughts, I need to embrace ageing and maybe this blog will help me discover my ‘how’.


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