Shine North East – Weekend Retreat Nov 2013

Thanks to the great fundraising efforts of Drive Benfield, our Shine North East Group was able to arrange a weekend retreat break for their members, here Soraya tells us all about the experience:

So, last weekend was Shine North East’s very first Weekend Retreat – and we’re already thinking about planning our next one!!

We got a fantastic deal on two gorgeous side-by-side cottages in a lovely little Northumberland village overlooking beautiful rolling hills.


 photo from verandah 

 We were blown away when we arrived by the luxurious cottages – big thick carpets, huge settees spilling over with cushions, massive kitchens, lovely bedrooms with stunning views and even a few with en-suite bathrooms!! Very fancy! We knew we were gonna enjoy ourselves!

Once everybody had arrived and settled in we did an icebreaker where everybody had to pick a year out of a bag (the years were written on little pieces of paper) and talk about what they were doing that year and what was memorable about it. We heard all about the magical year that Lesley met her Romeo at the tender age of seventeen, Sarah’s idyllic childhood playing on the beach at Seahouses and somehow got around to Kerry strutting her stuff, modelling her stylish new bag which she picked up during her birthday trip to York. There were a lot of giggles and a few tears too, talking about the good times, and some of the more recent, more difficult times.

After a lovely meal of chilli, rice, salad and cake we moved into the lounge and Lesley and I fed back to the group about our recent Shine leaders’ meeting in London. We discussed the direction that we’d like our group to take and it was great that everybody had some input about what they like about the group and how they’d like to see it develop.


The vino happily flowed whilst some of the group had a fight with the CD player!! But we got there in the end, overdosing slightly on the limited repertoire of boyband CDs available! Luckily the conversation was much better than the music!


On Saturday morning, after having breakfast together and despite a few sore heads amongst us, we bade a fond farewell to Sarah and Kerry who had managed to squeeze in just about every mode of travel in order to get there and now had to do the same to get home! What a pair of troopers!

The rest of us then took a leisurely bimble into and around the village, relishing the fresh air and the tranquillity of the surroundings. Oh, and the jewellery and nick-nacks that the charming gift shops had to offer. We also spotted another Red Lion – our home from home – and joked that we should have a meeting there!


After a communal lunch of soup and rolls back at base and some interesting and hilarious stories involving unexpected calls of nature, and, err, frogs, we composed ourselves once more for an afternoon of activity / total inactivity.

The active group went for a 6 mile walk through the beautiful countryside.


The inactive amongst us fetched our duvets down from the bedrooms, put on a DVD, grabbed a bucket of Celebrations and multiple cups of tea, and hunkered down on the welcoming settees for a good afternoon’s lazing. It was blissful.

When the wanderers returned and had eventually revived themselves, we all headed to the kitchen and I started on the tea – veggie pasta with salad and garlic bread. As we sat down to eat we raised a glass to our dear friend Neil, gone but not forgotten. Without him we wouldn’t have been there at all, as it was a family friend of his who gave us the fantastic deal on the cottages. So we sent him all our love together with a big thank you.

We contentedly finished our dinner but that was not all – there was more to come!

Karen and Claire had sneakily picked up a couple of bottles of prosecco and some Co-op’s finest strawberry cheesecake (OK, so it was reduced, but so what!) to celebrate Lesley’s forthcoming birthday. I was beckoned into the hallway to help with the lighting of the ceremonial birthday candles but kept burning my finger with the lighter. So Karen had the bright idea of setting fire to some paper to help expedite matters, but unfortunately dropped it onto the carpet as we stood, mouths agape, watching this disaster unfold!!! Luckily Karen managed to put it out pretty quick and the carpet is a dark plum colour anyway so, err, you can hardly see the burn marks!! We had to laugh!


Lesley was so surprised and even shed a tear or two, bless her! The cheesecake and prosecco was guzzled in no time, and very soon everyone disappeared and reappeared in the lounge in fancy PJs and dressing gowns for a bit of Trivial Pursuit – the You Bet version.  The game proved alot of fun but was abandoned halfway through when conversation took over. Again, there were some tears but some laughs too, and in fact a rapidly contagious fit of the giggles that had us all paralysed with laughter for about half an hour!! It was excellent therapy.

The next morning Claire was determined to have a boiled egg! Eggs are banished from her home due to her little boy’s allergies so it was with absolute glee that Claire tucked into her breakfast!


After a quick tidy up and the last minute hiccup of Lesley’s flat tyre (swiftly resolved by the lovely AA man – a very nice man, a very very nice man), we managed to squeeze in a few photos before heading off for a pub lunch on our way home.


We met up with the lovely Helen at the Shoulder of Mutton and sat down to a lovely carvery meal, with salmon for the veggies. Lesley was starving and I watched in amazement as she piled her plate high and then covered it in approximately 3 litres of gravy (they’re strange here oop norrf!) But we all had a lovely meal and it was a fab way to end the weekend. We managed just one more group photo shortly before squeezing back into the cars and whizzing off home, hopefully refreshed and nourished by our wonderful time together.

We also returned with a little book of thank yous to give to the very generous Benfield Motor Group, for funding our Weekend Retreat. We all feel huge gratitude to them for the support they have given us and this precious opportunity they gave us to get away from it all and make some fabulous memories together. Our weekend won’t be forgotten in a hurry. Thank you Benfield.


Here’s what they said:

Jackie: I’ve had an absolutely fantastic weekend with my other lovely Shine members. It was great getting to know everyone better. It’s been very relaxing and lots of giggles along the way.

Kerry: Thanks for a lovely getaway. It’s meant a lot to have support and friendship.

Claire: Thank you for arranging such a special weekend. I feel I have got to know everyone much better. Thank you to everyone for their support and care. I feel much better. It’s also felt like a really special treat as the cottages were so lovely.

Anon: I have had a really lovely weekend . . . Really good to have friends who ‘get it’. It has been very relaxed. This has helped people to share some of the sadness and difficulties they face. And this helps because you realise you are not alone.