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Part One is here: Brisbane Airport and Oslo.
Then I flew to Heathrow, hired a car and drove across England to the middle of Dartmoor. This was not as simple as it sounds. Reverse was in an unfamiliar location, I’d never used a GPS before, the lanes when I reached them were as wide as the car, I kept forgetting which side the indicators were on and for a while I didn’t think I’d ever escape the gravitational pull of Heathrow.
But I made it to Dartmoor, unscathed. After a day I was scampering happily around the lanes, and did not have an altercation with a lorry until after Dartmoor was behind – but I am getting ahead of myself.
That week was enchanted. Art and music, poetry and puppetry, commedia dell’arte and rosehips, cream teas and rambling.
Paths lined with blackberries, evenings with lady writers.
Bells and pubs and bushy-eyebrowed lurchers.
Driving over moors and meeting black dogs.
Dashing outdoors with my pockets full of pens whenever the sun shone.
Bell ringing and Jacobean manor house hotels.
Musical evenings, with dogs and hearth pipes, violins and accordions.
The haunting beauty of Wistman’s wood, like the garden at the heart of an emerald.
Moor ponies and honour boxes.
Endless kindness and hospitality, conversations, walks. The swift familiarity of a tiny town, the constant astonishment of finding oneself in any of a dozen fairytale landscapes. Quiet hours in the cottage with Ellen and Delia, writing and reading, brisk walks across town to visit everyone. Walls of art, Terri’s poem-lined walls, lives lived as art, indistinguishable from their retellings, sunlit studios, studios reached by a ladder through a trapdoor. Puppets and harps, masks and puppetry, music, songs and bells. Painted worlds bleeding from the spaces of one house to the next. People and objects from movies which have shaped my life – from my Narnia, the goblin worlds. Trees and faces which I knew from illustrations in my favourite books – Middle Earth in a stand of oaks, the mists and tors of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Virginia Lee‘s strong sweet fairytales, Rima Staines‘ crabbed and earthy myths. Houses through which the civil war was fought. Birch and alder gardens haunted by sculptures and geese. Words and books, stairs steep and twisted as a screw. Stiles.
I do not know how long would be enough, whether that week was a world which can be returned to. I hope it is.
Too soon, it was time to leave for Brighton.
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