Sometimes I share the mess with an aphid

If you like, you might see this as (probably the only) candid photograph of the Potwell Inn. As you see, it’s not glamorous and – as a friend once pointed out – the stack of interconnected six way sockets under the desk are dangerous and possibly illegal; but it’s where I go to skulk, ponder, remember, puzzle, dream, study, read, write and occasionally paint. The shutters are half closed because that way I can avoid looking at the car park and enjoy the roofs of a Georgian terrace and a couple of trees sunning themselves under the blue sky and summer clouds. Skies, like railway lines, link places together in the imagination. Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible to be homesick when you’re at home and I don’t know the answer, except that the Potwell Inn is the closest to the home I pine for, and like any self-build project it seems to be taking an eternity to create.

Last night a group of travellers pulled onto the green – there were something like ten trailers and an assortment of people from burly men who looked faintly terrifying, a big gang of children who wrestled, tumbled and played on the green with full hearted enthusiasm while their parents stood, arms folded, defying the twitching curtains. A policeman turned up on a bicycle and some negotiations took place – he seemed to be on first name terms with them. When I spoke to him later he said that he was surprised to see them because they usually parked up on Lansdown. I said that at least it would force the drug users and their dealers to find somewhere else. He ignored my remark resolutely and said that the Council would get the paperwork to evict them first thing in the morning. We stood and watched the children playing joyously and felt almost envious of their freedom. Then suddenly they all packed up and left, like a circus leaving town and the green felt empty once again.

The Potwell Inn is a bit like that. It can appear and disappear like the mirage of an oasis; a fugitive dream when you’re lost somewhere between the Favella and the Steppes; and I’m always searching for that sweet spot in between.

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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