About the Potwell Inn

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The greatest thing about the Potwell Inn is that it’s the imaginary creation of H. G. Wells and therefore both exists and doesn’t exist at the same time, rather like an obscure subnuclear particle. In fact the other potential name for this blog was “The Cloud Chamber” but I thought that was too pessimistic by half because being human is, after all, more fun than being a particle.

According to the narrative of the novel the Potwell Inn is somewhere in West Sussex but even though you might a pub with that name it will never, can never, be the real one because, if you’re following at all, it doesn’t exist! But this is my entirely speculative attempt to get as close to my idea of the Potwell Inn as I can. It’s something about my lifelong search for the place in which I can feel fully human, and that – as far as I’m concerned – is the sole purpose of the spiritual life, and this blog grew out of the journal I kept for three years after I retired, and after I made a very hubristic resolution to notice and to name things, that’s to say, to slow down.

Within H.G.Wells’ story, Mr Polly, the accidental hero leaves his unsatisfactory life behind and “clears out” in search of something. He eventually fetches up at the Potwell Inn and discovers that before he can enter his own little paradise he has to overcome the terrifying Uncle Jim.  It’s a quest story, a grail story. “Polly” was supposed to be a comic novel, but to an unhappy adolescent like me, sweating it out for an English Literature ‘O’ Level  it was enthrallingly subversive.

Looking back now, I think I understand that far from being simply a comic novel, The History of Mr Polly uses comedy to examine a far more important philosophical issue – that’s to say “What would true happiness look and feel like, and how can it be achieved?” The ancient Greek philosophers all had a go at answering it and Aristotle (who’s coming slowly back into fashion) wrote about it at length. The Greek concept is known as ‘eudaemon’ – literally ‘having a good spirit” but it’s better to use a word like ‘flourishing’. So the question becomes more like – ‘what do we need to do to flourish?’

My Potwell Inn is nowhere and everywhere, but if I can just look hard enough I might be able to find the place, a state of being where I can flourish, and I’m calling it the Potwell Inn.

Bath, UK

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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