I loved my week at Ty Newydd. I’m struggling to pin down exactly what about it I loved. It might have been finally being able to spend a week devoted to something I love and nothing else, like meeting in person for a week after years of a long distance relationship, snatching smiles and kisses whenever you can. Maybe it was spending a week with kind, thoughtful peers whose enthusiasm was infectious, and among whom I have to hope there are new friends. Perhaps it was just the food, sunshine and beautiful surroundings. Perhaps a combination of all of them; I don’t think it would have been the same with any of it missing.
It’s often hard to do justice to the things you love – people, places, experiences, books, music. It’s hard to spell out just what they meant to you, or changed in you, if the reason you love them is something precise and subtle; a certain smile in a person, a serenity in a place, or a minute clarity of your point of view in an experience. Any over earnest expression of love; platonic, romantic or for a place or thing, triggers in your reader a sense of excessive sentimentality, which can turn into disbelief. How many times have you read someone gushing over something, somewhere or someone, and thought ‘that’s so over the top, that can’t be true’? The feeling itself is so subjective that when I talk about it, I’m not trying to convince you to love it too, but that my love for it is genuine. I don’t want to tip you from belief to scepticism.
Then of course, there’s the converse. By trying to be credible, I could leave out the things that made the week so fulfilling. I was going to write a day by day, a blow by blow of the tutorials and outings and meals – tomato and puy lentil soup may have been my favourite. The little village pub filled with beams and pewter tankards and horse brasses and welcoming locals, not at all put off by a horde of lary writers. Having breakfast in the garden with like-minds and burning the other end of the candle with talk on the soft library sofas. It seems a bit redundant, though, like trying to help you understand the terrain, the feel of the soil underfoot, by explaining in detail the lines of elevation on a map. You’ll know the lay of the land, the type of soil, the flora and fauna, perhaps even be able to imagine it, but until you go and stand in the dirt it won’t quite be real. It’s a line I struggle to tread; not too sentimental, not too journalistic.
I’m beginning to narrow down what I loved more and more as I think about it. A renewed sense of confidence in my work might be what I loved about it most. It gave me the feeling that I’m not on the ledge alone and that should any of us get the urge to jump our wings will work and we might fly.
That sounds a little too sentimental for the journalist in me, but the romantic in me is begging me to leave it in, and at present he’s got me by the heart strings, so I suppose it shall have to stay.