It can be difficult, for those naturally reserved, shy even, rubbing shoulders with strangers, sleeping with them, eating and breathing together. But if there is a common interest, a shared goal perhaps, it gets a little easier. And if there is direction and guidance, bringing all these disparate folks together, then it becomes damn good fun.
Atmosphere is a huge part of it and here at Ty Newydd, in a tranquil corner of North Wales, it is in abundance. It is a centre well used to melding nervous arrivals, filled with self doubt, into a searing mass of enthusiasm.
Coaxed and cajoled we have been; tasked with introspection beyond the comfort zone. Yet the group dynamic grows stronger; some even remember names, and confidence builds, visibly.
We are fortunate to have the gentle persuasion of Mark Charlton, once an artist who found himself filling his sketchbook with words, and became a writer. Now a published author he started with a blog, and turned it, very deliberately into a craft. Sage are the words he shares with us.
And there is Rory Maclean, who I had met before, calm, insightful, intuitive, with a yard of books to his name and a tale to tell. He has told plenty of them and entertained, and he has poured out his inner self, expertly, drawing tears from the humble reader, unable to resist. Rory’s A Gift of Time is a brave variant of the memoir, astonishing even,
Together they give, and they keep on giving, and then they give more. There is a word of encouragement here, deep reflection there, a talk or two perhaps and a reading, for the authorial voice is so vital as we heard last night.
Kitchen rota is new to me, but it works and the growing togetherness is evident in readings and in writings. Fears are shed and inner beasts are unmasked. And then they top it all with a surprise, a guest. It is a name that draws a gasp, a book I have read. It is Jay Griffiths and we are deeply honoured, left wanting more.
For in the room that once housed Lloyd George we gathered and we listened. The roof is barrel-vaulted, the window bevelled, and the acoustics just weird. As all good rooms should be the walls are lined with books. If the pin had dropped it would have done so with a clash of cymbals, but we have abandoned all cliches, metaphors too, and there is silence. Utter silence.
It is a tiny shift from Jay to joy, but she is gifted and she shared her gift with us, intimately. It is some years since I read Wild, but I will do so again, recalling her voice and that delivery. There’s a new work coming in the spring. It’s on my list and I may just share it with you.
But the boys keep on giving and there is more to follow, for we are not done yet. Surely they can’t top that? It is but another tiny step from joy to Jan. But it was not to be.
And in the meantime I endure the type of night I once had on a riad rooftop; a night when sleep was a distant stranger, an absent bedfellow; a night when you realise you are in ‘a moment’, and it is magical and is to be savoured, every second taken in and turned over. Thanks All, truly wonderful.