From Dan Pavitt, The Hurst Administrator and caretaker while the centre is closed for renovation
It’s somewhat ironic that for most of last year I watched from the office as writers scurried between the Manor House and the Clockhouse – the better prepared under an umbrella, the more absent minded using an A4 pad or perhaps a copy of The Guardian, to shelter from the relentless hammering rain. Now there’s nobody here to enjoy it, the weather seems set fair. Gentle breezes, as opposed to force 8 gales allow open windows to remain on their hinges and through them a deep blue sky can be seen, merging with those remembered hills in the distance. And today I’m wearing a pair of shorts that until this week hadn’t seen the light of day since 2011. It’s not too shabby working here you know – just a bit lonesome at the moment.
The very able Assistant Caretaker, Mr Kipper is a cheerful presence when he’s awake, but I’ve often caught him napping, and his only response to several verbal warnings has been to jump up on my desk and stick his wet nose in my ear. My first (and only) born is also here on a temporary basis, doing a little light weeding in the electronic allotment that is the Arvon database. But it’s one of those jobs that can drive you up the wall – boring to the point of sedation, yet still requiring intense focus. To preserve her sanity she spends the day headphoned in splendid I-solation, intimate with her MP3 playlist and the screen in front of her – unavailable for comment.
So I am here, mostly with just my thoughts – and if you had any idea what my thoughts are, you’d agree that leaving us alone together just isn’t healthy. The solitude, the peace and quiet, time, space etc were fun for a while, but I reckon that in four months I’ve finally managed to do what my friends and family have been urging me to do for years – I’ve got over myself. My rehabilitation is complete and I am ready to receive the public again.
Well, I’m going to have to wait a bit longer. The builders are chop chopping and busy busying, but it’s a huge and complex project. This week, for instance, they were able to start constructing the new external lift shaft (providing better disabled access to than ever before) but not before being given the all clear by our conservationist who had spotted nesting birds under the guttering. I also understand that there was a considerable amount of teeth sucking on the part of plant hire companies before one could be persuaded to transport a mobile crane along our driveway. Steel structures appear with lightning speed though and after just three days I am ready to head off local rumours that Arvon is in fact a front for the Ministry of Defence, constructing a missile launcher in place of the old lean-to.
This temporary monastic lifestyle is all worthwhile when I wander round the perimeter fence – still more when (about once a month) the site manager conducts a guided tour inside. I have only ever known two distinct areas of the Manor House: ‘Our bit’ and ‘Helen’s bit’ which I’ve watched decay over the years. The two are already as one and each time I look, a new piece of the puzzle has fallen into place. It is a privilege to watch, and I simply can’t wait to welcome colleagues and most importantly, writers, back to The John Osborne Arvon Centre.