5.30am. I am on my way today to Totleigh Barton which is near Sheepwash which is near Totnes which is Devon proper, famous for its clotted cream and lush rolling hills. Three adult students my co tutor, author Maggie Gee and I are in the taxi which has scooped us all from Exeter train station.
The taxi rolls along those gentle hills, up and down, hurtling through tunnels arched with hedgerows ten feet high. We pass through the town of Oakhampton. “you wouldn’t believe how much new buildings their putting up” says Sandra the driver “s’all changed since you was last here”. A discussion ensues as we pass through Oakhampton, a discussion about change and new visitors and single mothers being given priority over house buyers. “when was you last here” Sandra continues
I can’t see her face as I am sat at the back of the van but her forearms are sturdy enough. I feel that we could be a hop and skip away from someone talking of Eastern European immigrants, the latest addition to this islands workforce. But no one intimates as such and thankfully I can enjoy the banter without hearing dark undertones. Eastern Europeans when all's said and done can only improve what seems a dwindling and drastically self serving gene pool.
The roads become smaller and smaller or is it the taxi bus getting bigger and bigger. Twigs brush the windows. Sparrows dart from one hedgerow to the next barely missing the automobile. We cross a cattle track slip down a hill and and arrive at the eleventh century farmhouse that dates back to The Doomsday Book. It’s sitting like a grandmother waiting for her children to come back from play. The taxi shudders to a stop on the gravel and for a a second, before we do anything we are stunned by silence.
I’m shown to my room a beamed cottage next to the house. I shall be here for the entire week, from morning through noon until night. I shall be waking and sleeping here. I shall be teaching fifteen people, strangers to each other, to write and to be with the most important part of their lives, creativity. They will be lawyers and scientists, restaurateur and arts administrators, housewives teachers and sports administrators. They have leapt from their comfort zones into the unknown.Brave. They have taken a risk without which there is no benefit.
It is the job of Maggie Gee and I to walk them through a structured week where they will find the pure heady enjoyment of creativity through a disciplined approach towards the art of writing. I unpack my clothes leave my room and walk along a short pathway into the main house kitchen.