MARKET DAY. The village bus twists and turns through the lanes.
On it are old folk, students, workmen, the woman who reads
paperbacks all the way. There is an Italianate villa where the
naval rating who helped to bury Rupert Brooke en route to
Gallipoli lived; there is the hill where Martin Shaw composed
"Hills of the North, rejoice". And there, across the liquid
landscape, is the little house where my aunt spent her life making
lace for the altar.
But, in the market town, the stone griffins on the church tower
maintain their watch, seeing off goblins and foul fiends. I sense a
new feeling of things not being as prosperous as they were. And, as
always, faces from boyhood appear in the old street - not phantom
features, but young faces grown old along with my own, especially
The Epiphany proceeds. The Queen joins the Three Kings in the
Chapel Royal; and in our three ancient parishes we sing and pray
the journeying liturgy. Soon, we will be walking into Lent. Last
midnight I wandered around the garden, staring at stars, and
followed by the white cat. Stansted planes flew silently through
golden clouds. An extra quietness prevailed. Snow was out of the
question, and winter was no more than a name. But I checked the oil
tank, and it answered with a half-full clunk.
Then came the clearing of desks for this year's work. Only not
quite yet. Let January get into its stride. Hear some music. Answer
letters. Remember that Keith is coming to decorate John Nash's
studio, now my bedroom. He went to it every day at ten o'clock, and
came down from it at four o'clock. His easel fronted a north light,
and there was a single 40-watt bulb to encourage it. We never
entered without permission, and he never left it without a kind of
sadness. It was never swept or dusted, and cocoa-tin lids piled
with ash were rarely emptied.
When he went away to fill up the sketchbooks, he cleared a space
for me in which to write. But I never worked in his studio with its
north light and half-light, but always in the sunshine. His pupils
would enter this room with reverence, looking forward to the time
when they, too, would attain its murk and hereditary litter and
spiders' webs. For it takes an age to create one's own peerless
dust and muddle.
I was once told the tale of Gustav Holst's reaction to the new
composing room which his wife made ready for him when he was away.
Glorious it was, with great windows on to the beautiful Thaxted
countryside. But they said that he never wrote a note in it, and
sat by the hearth in his old house, as he always did. His suite
The Planets might soar to the skies, but it was created by
Benjamin Britten worked in a window which faced the sea, and
which at times was sprayed with it. But the local stationer sold
postcards of the window, and, when visitors to Aldeburgh stood on
the sea wall to watch him, he had to find a hiding place.
William Hazlitt, the great essayist who longed to be an artist,
insisted that no one should approach an artist at work - that
something sacred was happening at that moment. I once read "Kubla
Khan" in the room where Coleridge had written it, rocking his baby
son to sleep at the same time. Nash walks to his studio in my room