…are at this moment thinking about their week at Ted Hughes’ house in Lumb Bank, or maybe that should be on Lumb Bank.  It’s in Yorkshire, a very beautiful part of Yorkshire (is there any other sort?) about a five minute drive from the Hebden Bridge train station. And then a ten minute walk down a very steep and icy hill — if you haven’t remembered to bring your 4 x 4.

The kids (twenty or so between 12 and 18) spent five days on an Arvon Creative Writing course — sleeping in the converted barn, cooking enormous communal meals, sitting around a big roaring open fire and writing stories and poetry.

Their wise and sensitive tutors, Tim Pears (novelist) and Leanne O’Sullivan (poet), were there to talk about their work, and about writing, and about living and thinking.

Lucky me. I joined for one night to partake of a wonderful meal and talk about my work. The kids asked the best questions. Some showed me their poems and stories.  I was gratuitously rude about fan fiction (sorry Alex). And then I retired to my perfectly tiny monastic room in the beautiful old house overlooking the breathtaking valley under the sparkling stars. Too many adjectives, Meg. And yet, somehow, not enough.

The next morning, with the sky still pink from sunrise, I set off up the icy hill on foot accompanied by a delightful entourage of kids and teachers, all of whom had more puff than I did.  I kept stopping to ‘admire the view’, but no one was fooled.

From the window of the train home, I saw two hares standing in the middle of an empty snowy field. They might have been waving at me.  And I read a very beautiful poem that one of the kids had written for me that morning.

At a time of cutbacks, book shortages and library closures, what price can you put on an experience like that?

Priceless, surely.

For me, anyway.


17 thoughts on “The Luckiest Kids in the World….

  1. Daniel Hahn 8 years ago

    Meg, yes, the Arvon courses for young people are the best thing in the world, I quite agree. I’m taking a group down to Totleigh Barton on Monday and can’t wait. x

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Daniel, this only confirms my suspicion that you are not one person at all, but a conglomerate made up of 40 individuals who pursue such diverse professions as Portuguese/French/Spanish literary translation, book editor, writer, human rights campaigner, and about 38 other jobs.

  2. Lorna Stallard 8 years ago

    I’m between 12 and 18 … That sounds absolutely amazing. Ted Hughes’ house, too!

  3. Claire 8 years ago

    Oh, sounds lovely! Hadn’t realised Arvon did courses for teens as well. Lucky bunch. 🙂

  4. bookwitch 8 years ago

    I used a taxi to get down. And another taxi to leave. No need for puff.

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      And what were you doing there, Witch?

  5. Jessica Huang 8 years ago

    Just thought I’d check this ‘blog’ of your’s after you came down on Wednesday xD I’m glad to hear that you had as much fun as we did! It was really inspiring to have you talk to us~ We’ve taken as much as what you’ve said into consideration (especially ‘throughness’) and wish you luck on your writing, too xD

    (And we’re happy to hear you enjoyed my, and my friend’s, cooking. We worked hard on that).

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Hi Jessica
      I’m sorry I haven’t read your story yet but I will tomorrow. It was great to meet you and eat your delicious meal. You can come cook for me anytime…. xMeg

  6. Fireboy 8 years ago

    Glad you enjoyed your day with us. My Mum would quite like to see the poem I gave you. Would it be possible for you to email me a copy? Or send a paper copy to school. -Whichever is easiest for you.


    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Hi Mark — I’m happy to do that. It’s late tonight, so I’ll do it tomorrow. xMeg

  7. Ray P Hewitt 8 years ago

    There is but one place in Yorkshire that isn’t beautiful. The Moors at minus 5 – sleeping in a Trench!

    Scratch that, it is truly a wonderful County and that trip sounded like a lot of fun. I like adventures like that..

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Actually, um….anywhere at minus 5 in a trench sounds pretty grim to me.

  8. kokorako 8 years ago

    Lucky you! I went to an Arvon course at Lumb Bank in May, years ago, and it was a huge mistake – the place was drenched in dawn chorus, spring flowers, wood sprites, literary ghosts – and I could write nothing at all overcome by the sensory lovelyness. I imagine I’d have the same problem in a snowy Yorkshire. Glad to hear the kids had the chance to write inside the house rather than in those fab (but chilly) writing huts though!

  9. Michelle 8 years ago

    These children are lucky indeed. It was also very nice to see them leave comments for you here. They obviously learned quite a lot from you.

  10. Mr P 8 years ago

    Thank you so much for taking time to talk to our students. We shall let you have a copy of the anthology for your perusation (is that a word?). I shall search for my ‘throughness’ with all haste.
    Priceless sums it up.

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      I was on Radio 3 Nightwaves this week along with a chess grand master (we were on completely different topics, needless to say!) and afterwards he described to me what it feels like to be immersed in a difficult game of chess — “it’s a kind of trance state,” he said, “that comes from someplace very deep.” So there you have it, milkmen probably experience it on a particularly successful round as well!
      It was my pleasure. They’re great kids.

  11. Rachel Harris 8 years ago

    Hi Meg,
    I was one of those students and what you said about being really lucky was absolutely true! The house was amazing, the food tasted fab and (apart from the barn being freezing!) the whole trip was great! I am very grateful to you for coming in to talk to us about “throughness” and writing in general – it was really good!
    Good luck with more writing
    Rachel xx

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