pencil scribblings #3

I was born in the Lake District and lived there for the first two years of my life. After that, I grew up in London and Cardiff: so I can hardly claim to belong to the Lake District except in some technical sense. Nevertheless I grew up with a sense that it was where I came from. Both sets of grandparents lived in Carlisle and visits to Carlisle were fairly frequent, and from Carlisle to the Lakes is a short hop of barely more than twenty miles.

The Lake District associates, via William Wordsworth, with poetry. I’ve identified women as perhaps the most important theme, or challenge, of my life: another crucially important strand, weaving its way through my life in its entirety — would be poetry.

Poetry seems to have been my way of dealing with solitude. The first poem I ever wrote was when I tore a ligament at the age of thirteen on my first day in the snow, on a school skiing holiday in Switzerland. I was laid up in the hotel for the rest of the holiday. One day, I hobbled out of the hotel to the edge of Lake Montreux, feeling enormously sorry for myself, and began sketching a poem: The water from the mountains rushing down / Makes its contribution to the vastness of the lake. Brilliant! Unfortunately after that promising beginning everything fizzled out and I was unable to write more than a couple more lines.

I didn’t feel inspired again for another whole ten years: I was twenty-four when I made my next attempt. The inspiration on this occasion was actually a house. Whose house, and why it inspired me, is a story for another day.


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