Sometimes when I am out walking my dog, I see something that makes me laugh and this week a little girl called Lydia had me in stitches. She was walking along a track on Woodbury Common, a large stretch of open land that has great views of the sea. We were following the little figure, I guess she was about three, as she toddled along following her Dad, her older sister and their two dogs. Lydia, I knew her name because her Dad was shouting to her to hurry up as the rest of the family were way out in front of her. She was not to be hurried. Dressed in pink from head to toe, pink
Wellington boots with yellow butterflies, pink over trousers and a pink mac she was determined to paddle through the pools of water that lay along the path. At each puddle and there were quite a lot of them, she stood arms outstretched like birds wings, waited for a second or so and then leapt into the air only to come down with both feet firmly in the water. She laughed and giggled as the water splashed up around her, her blond hair flying in the wind. It didn’t matter how many times her father called her, she repeated the action at each stretch of water she came to, until one of the dogs, a puppy called Polly vanished into the undergrowth, followed by the elder daughter, Emma. At that point, father gave up waiting for her; he ran back to Lydia and grabbed her under his arm before running off in the direction Emma and the puppy had gone. We heard him calling for the dog for quite a while but didn’t see them again. The picture of Lydia thrusting herself feet first into those puddles kept me laughing most of the day.
This week I have been to two very different literary festivals. The Ways with Words Festival has been running for over twenty years at the very beautiful Dartington Hall, and is well established. Sponsored by the Daily Telegraph, the speakers, not surprisingly, are authors who have published books that the arts editors consider to be important. The other smaller and more community minded was in the small market town of Chudleigh about six miles outside Exeter.
I was one of the organising committee at Chudleigh and we put together a programme that would appeal to both readers and writers. Ways with Words is primarily aimed at readers although many writers do attend in the hope of learning something about the craft of writing from some of the countries most successful authors. Nevertheless I found a common theme in both.
One of the workshops at Chudleigh was taken by Chris Waters, a poet and member of the Dartmoor Poets, who provoked us into thinking about landscape by looking at photographs taken by James Ravilious of places and people in north Devon in the 1960’s although they looked like they were from a much earlier period. Later the author Fay Sampson www.faysampson.co.uk talked about her novels which she said were inspired by place, indeed her latest series, the Aiden mysteries are set in the sacred places of Britain. At Dartington Jane Feaver the author of ‘An Inventory of Heaven’ talked about how difficult it was to write about the countryside unless you had lived in a landscape since birth and your family had lived there for generations. She described the land as having no sense of humour. So three authors and three different views on writing about nature.