At the risk of sounding slightly gushy, here goes. Last week I finally did something I've been meaning to do for about twenty-seven years, give or take a decade.
I finally dusted off my polo neck sweater and pipe and headed off to Ted's place in the country.
Lumb Bank is one of the four Arvon houses, in this case pitched on the side of a valley in a strange part of the world called Yorkshire. It's strikingly similar to Malaysia or Vietnam, complete with spiralling columns of mist in the mornings and wall to wall trees. The picture above that I stole from the Daily Mail hardly does that justice, but if the photographer had turned ninety degrees to the left he would have fallen off an almost sheer drop into prime rainforest. Geography was never my strong suit.
Anyway, I met there with fourteen poets including the tutors, Ian Duhig and Amanda Dalton. I'd chosen the place because it was the only Arvon centre that could offer me a single room that week. In other words, I had limited expectations. In discussions with Jess before I set off I decided that, if it didn't turn out, I'd spend my time writing and avoid the classes. After all this was my week.
So imagine my surprise when this turned out to be one of the most inspirational weeks I couldn't imagine. I'm lost for words - now. Perhaps that's because I've been in the summer house all day working on material I wrote last week - wrestling with a particularly resistant poem that won't accept its destiny, to be massaged into heroic couplets.
Ian and Amanda were fabulous. Their generosity of time and spirit was humbling. Everyone kept saying that we were a special group, and that immediately made me suspicious, but we were.
One day, when the mist settles on Lumb Bank I'm going to blog about this properly - tell you why it was so special. For now, all I can offer is the first sonnet I ever wrote, thumped out in a writing exercise when we were given twenty minutes to come up with something, anything.
I found you at the bus stop in the rain,
no transport there so we agreed to trek.
I never thought that we would meet again,
complained about the dripping down my neck.
Your words flowed as a torrent on the route
how you loved the damp, the misty air
how rain could clothe your body like a suit –
the water was the perfume that you wear.
I couldn’t pay attention to the stream
and struggled for impressive words to say,
pretended that I heard this in a dream:
the rain it raineth every single day.
But even after all these cloudy years
the smell of rain can still bring me to tears.
Alright, I admit I changed the name when I returned to England. Originally it was called Rain Girl. But we all know that a poem should have a pretentious classical title. I prefer Rain Girl too.