Who is Miss No-Name? Why did Thirkell build a second grave? Why is Rosie fascinated by swear words?

These are just some of the questions that came up when we discussed Mark Newman's Costa short-listed short story, Rosa and Thirkell. The conversation was lively, wine-fuelled and passionate. Will these six short stories we're reading be suggestive of the zeitgeist? Will we find they speak to the concerns and issues of the moment. Will they speak to each other ... ?

On previous retreats we've read stories that I've hand-picked, but this year (and it's working so well, this might well become the model) we're reading the six Costa short-listed stories, and instead of me reading them, we're listening to the readings from the Costa web-site. This not only saves my voice (post-laryngitis) but also enables me to be a participant rather than a leader, which I rather enjoy.

Big walks were enjoyed yesterday, even a run, so Maria's chocolate and beetroot brownies and her lime, coconut and poppy seed tray bake were well earned (by some!). Lunch was at the Glaisnock Cafe/Bookshop just across the green from 'our' bookshop. This small town is full of cafés and bookshops combined, all serving excellent food. It's February, it's Scotland, it does rather feel as though we're in the middle of nowhere, but it's working and feels busy and even buzzy - in a gentle, laid-back, Scottish lowlands sort of way.

And here, by the fire, full of Emily's home-cooked food and good wine, with knitting needles clicking in the background, and pages quietly turning, another day of Readers Retreat draws to a close.

Anna x