Arvon is 50 this year and to celebrate we have collected the stories of writers far and wide who have a tale to tell about Arvon. The collection will be published in our anniversary booklet and featured on our blog throughout the year. The following piece is by Romany Romany.
“Oh Mum, I love him!”
My mother stared at me confused. “Love who?”
“Rob! The poet!” It might have been Paul. Maybe it was Pete. Thirty-five years later, I can’t remember. Only the resident poet’s wiry grey hair in my memory, a fog of cigar smoke, sleepless nights reading, sunny days writing. Fifteen years old on a school trip, I’d been immediately and irrevocably seduced by Arvon’s world of books, tatty sofas, real fires in real fireplaces and cosy window-seats. I didn’t ever want to leave. Scuffing through the brown leaf crunch in the forest at Lumb Bank, I scribbled in my notebook,
“I shall not leave this place.
I shall stand beside a tree and turn green.”
I had no ambition to be a writer. I only knew I loved words; savoured them, rolled them around in my mouth. Tears dripping, I whispered lines from Emily Bronte,
“And, even yet, I dare not let it languish,
Dare not indulge in memory’s rapturous pain:”
On solitary walks, I declaimed Ted Hughes loud to the setting sun,
“Then the sun
Orange, red, red erupted
Silently, and splitting to its core tore and flung cloud,”
On the resident poet’s request, I wrote about my dying grandmother, biscuit crumbs in the carpet, the morning’s fat meaty sausages, anything, everything.
Then, because I didn’t want to miss a moment of the magic, I stayed up through the nights, sitting in the window-seat wrapped up in a blanket, inhaling poems, poems that entered my cells and have stayed there ever since.
“I shall never be Different. Love me.” I whispered to Auden.
“from your eager mouth
the taste of strawberries” My virgin never-been-kissed lips promised Edwin Morgan.
“lean back again
let me love you”
On my second week a year later, this time at Totleigh Barton, I walked barefoot through the warm grass of afternoon fields, learning new words from my paperback thesaurus until a liquid cowpat schlapped between my toes and broke me out of romantic dreams. I ate McVities digestive biscuits – only McVities biscuits – because the farmhouse kitchen seemed so ‘rustic’ compared to my mother’s pristine surfaces. In the summer heat, flies landed on the butter and the cat sat on the remains of the evening meal. Post-Arvon, sugar high, vitamin deficient and sleep-deprived, no wonder I looked and sounded deranged to my mother meeting me at the station. But oh so happy! I had fallen in love with poetry all over again. And the resident poet.
One morning, before sunrise, I tiptoed down to the dining room. On the long pine table there was an earthenware bowl full of bright clementines each with a perfectly placed green stem and leaf. Someone had wrapped one with a sheet of paper with writing on it. A gift from the morning. I unwrapped it. A poem. One day, I thought, I too would wrap a poem around a clementine and leave for my lover to find on a crisp cold Christmas morning.
I did, but that’s a story for another time.
More than thirty years later at Lumb Bank, the long pine-table looked the same, the windows were the same. In my laptop this time around, I had the book of my life. It had poured out of me last summer, four months writing dawn til dusk, my bum growing numb, my bottomless coffee mug refilled every hour. It seemed only right to return to Arvon to learn how to polish and present it. And I did, re-write after re-write after re-write.
Like Arvon, I am fifty. Here I am again, this time with my book all packaged up and published, ready as it will ever be to be read and hopefully enjoyed.
Arvon wove its love of words ivy-like through my life and its blessing has been profound. It seems that I didn’t leave after all.
Spun Into Gold – The Secret Life of a Female Magician is available on Amazon