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.