Monday, May 24, 2010

Lloyd George, writing and risks - in a round about way

I am sitting in the last home of Lloyd George at Llanystumdwy in North Wales. The curved windows of the  library overlook a large walled garden, Barmouth and the Rhinogs just visible above the trees.  To the West, the sea meets the sky in an a hazy pink horizon. I could sit here all day; reading, faffing, playing my new banjo (picked it up on my round about  way here)...

But I can't because I'm here to write.

I'm on a week's course with the Tynewydd Foundation.  The theme is writing and nature, and one of the tutors is Mark Cocker who wrote Crow Country to much acclaim a few years ago. In a round about way Crow Country inspired me to find the starling roost near to my house, so it will be interesting to meet him. And hopefully I'll have the time and inspiration to write some blog posts and finish the assignments for my degree course.

It seems appropriate to be here at Lloyd George's house given the outcome of the  recent election.  As the first Welsh and last Liberal prime minister I wonder if he's turning in his grave at the thought of the alliance with the English Tories?  Or is his ghost restless at the prospect of change, plotting and scheming as I write. I'd put money on the latter.

But either way I ought to sense it here - after all, his grave is down the road, next to a museum dedicated to his life. As I walked past it this afternoon I wondered how many prime ministers have a museum in their memory? No many. I can't imagine there will ever be a Major or a Blair Museum - or Brown one for that matter.

And that, in a round about way too, tells me something about taking opportunities when you have them.

If I think about British politics in last twenty years I genuinely can't put my mind to anything inspiring or different; any positive  legacy that historians will point too. Afghanistan maybe - time will tell - but that's hardly something we set out to achieve. Whenever I have met politicians over the last two decades (and I've met a lot of them)  I have pondered, when and how it was, that their outlook became so pragmatic and cautious. You'd think with the  parliamentary majorities of New Labour they 'd have risked a bit (to be fair to Major he had a tiny majority). But it was almost as if the moment they had the chance, they became too scared , the responsibility was just too much to carry.

I hope my week here isn't like that.  My friend and tutor, John Skinner, used to say there was a fine line between crap and gold, between brilliance and tosh - and we should test that line to the limit; risk everything for the chance of brilliance. John was talking about paintings, not the economy or the future of the welfare state - so I guess he could be a bit more cavalier than Prime Ministers. But the general point stands; there's not much point in having an opportunity if you don't then take it.

As I sit looking over the estuary, I'm hoping I'll take some risks. Hoping I'll try something new and purposeful - something Lloyd George would have approved of.


  1. Sounds like a fabulous opportunity, enjoy it to the full.

  2. Had a horrible urge to ask whether, in following Lloyd George's footsteps you were thinking of taking a mistress and doing something about pensions....
    but I know you're there for a higher purpose!
    Enjoy the chance of discussing your work with an author you admire...and take some risks.

  3. Sounds a wonderful creative retreat. I'm genuinely envious. Soak it up, enjoy it... see what comes forth.

  4. What a good idea this is - you can't find a dozen diversionary things to do in the house, the boys won't interrupt you, your lovely wife won't say 'when you've got a minute could you just...'. This is your time, *your* time and what a lovely place to be based to have this time.

    We can all see that you write a perfect blog - I bet your writing assignments are going to be of the highest standard, you've got natural talent.

  5. Sounds like you're going to have one of those life changing, decision making kind of weeks away.

    I hope going away for a while has helped you to see things more clearly and you've managed to get all your writing cdompleted as anticipated.

  6. Like French Fancy, I think having the time to immerse yourself in all things writerly will probably give your creative streak the space to stretch itself. I look forward to hearing how you get on.

    C x

  7. Sounds like heaven Mark. Yes, I'm just a tad jealous. Just a tad. (Well actually LOADS...but as everyone has said...enjoy yourself and make the most of it. I've gone back to reading "Brideshead Revisited" and I'm savouring every word of it.) As everyone says...write what you know about...and write and write and write and the gold will reveal itself. Without a doubt.