‘…..No more those lovely disciplines
we reassure ourselves it’s human to pursue
and no more those sweet acts of will
we briefly treasure or take for granted…..’
from The Lovely Disciplines by Martin Crucefix
Coming to the end of turmoil and desolation I received two lovely and unexpected gifts. They have both taken me back into writing again. The Lovely Disciplines, poems about the ordinary made extraordinary, is full of positive thoughts and words. The title poem takes us into the sad, lost world of those who ‘turn hardly more than a leaf turns/ in being blown to the gutter’. I love Martin Crucefix’s translations of Rilke and this gift of his latest poems was just perfect at a time when I felt rather like the ‘leaf turning’ myself. I had forgotten how one is surrounded by the ‘lovely disciplines’ and how precious they are when they seem as if they are going to be lost. One of the problems with moving house is that the chaos and disturbance can be overwhelming and all the daily miracles of life are forgotten.
So Penny’s gift came just at the right time along with another ‘house warming gift’ from Caroline. That is an old map of Taprobana. Although the actual place is debated to me it is certainly Sri Lanka/Ceylon. William Knox, on his return to England, included a map of Ceylon in his 1681 Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon and it is so similar to the Taprobana map that is now on my study wall I am certainly convinced they are one and the same place. Sometimes Ceylon is also called Serendib. Now Knox has been packed away for too long – I had to search for my notes, and the poems that I have to work on are neatly filed but it took me a long time to find them. The excitement of the map has focused me on what I now need and want to do.
We are well settled – almost three months into the move to Les Ecasseries. The huge cattle barn is now nearly empty of our furniture, black bags are unpacked. Our little bungalow has a small kitchen, a living room and two bedrooms. One of these is now my study and Phil has built in book shelves and a fitted wardrobe in the bedroom so that we can ‘fit in’ too.
The bungalow – called a pavilion in French – has a sous sol – a kind of basement. It is the exact copy of the rooms above and was once a double garage and storage space. It already had a sink in what is now a utility room and storage for dried food, freezers, overflow of books, years of poetry magazines and anything else there was no room for elsewhere. The garage now has patio doors leading to the outside and is a wood floored, spacious and bright office and treatment room for Phil. Behind it is a double guest room ready for occupation – everything carpeted and walled and ceilinged, the small window letting in light and it looks very good – actually substantially bigger then the bedroom above! There is a small box room with bunk beds and a linen cupboard and cupboard for the water heater. We have managed to get most of our furniture and ‘stuff’ in – and now we are waiting for guests to come too. It has been an amazing transformation. Outside a new fosse septique has been put down in the back meadow by the lovely and well named David Joyeux – who also removed a lot of hedging with his huge digger and the weeping willow tree now stands at the front of the house in a stretch of open grass.
There is still lots to do including setting up a garden and making workshops and clearing things in the barns but everything we need at the moment is done – it has all been painted and looks like a completely different house. Now I have to try and keep it all tidy – that is the lovely discipline of a small house. I hope that this gives a feel of the place to everyone so you can imagine us here and thriving.
I have had time to do quite a lot of reading but not the focus or energy to write much. I hope to now be more regular in writing proper blogs – but I felt this one needed to be more descriptive. Last week I entered three competitions – one a pamphlet one, one a taster for a pamphlet and one a single poem. I also sent off five poems – this week. I want to set up another lovely discipline and make sure that poems that have been sitting in files and drawers are sent out into the world – Ezra Pound described this as being like sending out babies into the cold. I understand the reluctance to expose them in their weakness to the harsh wind of other people’s reality.
Moving because it is the sensible thing to do as we get older has been hard. The old house was lovely and we were in the midst of such beautiful, remote countryside but it was becoming too hard and expensive to keep up the large house and the land. I am so glad that we had it for six years and the memories, and the writing that has come out of the place, will last for a long time to come. Here we are up on a hill, with a long, long view across a valleys to a far ridge. We are close to the motor way and only two kilometers from small shops. I can stand in the middle of the hallway and vacuum all the rooms without changing plug sockets. In the kitchen we can reach everything while sitting at the table!
There are new and lovely disciplines to learn and to be grateful for. We are thankful for the support and care of all our friends and families and look forward to sharing our new house with them.
Some rather dark photos!