At my launch party last week I was thrilled that three of my dear Arvon friends - Jen, Polly and Nessy - were able to come and celebrate with me. Just before we met again, Jen sent me a picture. She'd taken it quietly, without me realising, on one of the free afternoons at Totleigh where we'd each sought our own corners of the house to work in.
Photo credit: Jennifer McDerra
I can't remember the precise day, but I recall the feeling of sitting at that ancient table, its oak smoothed by the elbows of so many good and great writers down the years. There's a woodburner just out of shot that would have been omitting a delicious hiss and crackle, a comforting accompaniment to the hunt for words. Behind me is the kitchen, and it would have been full of the alloted chefs for the night - fellow student-writers rolling up their sleeves and attempting to follow recipe cards, feeling the weight of responsibility of cooking for the group but already giggling with too much wine. You can see from the picture that it's dark outside; it was November so it could have been as early as five o'clock, but soon I would have had to shut down my laptop, and take my books upstairs. And I'd have come back down to find the room filled with chatter. There'd have been candles lit, delicious wafts coming from the kitchen, and the pop and glug of pouring wine. And all around me there'd have been people blinking and stretching and feeling the hair on the tops of their heads as they emerged from their afternoon's solitary writing and rejoined the world; not the ordinary world, the humdrum world, but the Arvon world. Which is a very special place indeed.