On the 21st December 2018, during the Solstice, I spent my first weekend at Talliston as their Writer In Residence.
(For those of you who don’t know already, Talliston was once “ an ordinary house in an ordinary street… transformed into a series of inspiring locations, each set in a different time and place.” To find out more visit the website here..)
As I got out of my cab I realised I was (as usual) unfashionably early. Maybe a bit too early, so to pass a little time, I strolled around the square and saw the Christmas lights decorating the neighbouring houses.
I thought: at Christmas we give ourselves permission to place decorations and fairylights in and on our homes, we transform them into wonderlands. We consider kindness and magic and wonder. We eat what we like, when we like. We dress in sequins and glitter, we play games, we stop working, because we may, because this is the season to be jolly, after all.
This is Christmas magic.
The houses around Talliston were adorned with fairy lights too, the same as other neighbourhoods all over the UK.
They were all upstaged though by the full moon, pale and strong, I couldn’t keep your eyes off her.
I was still a bit early but I decided to knock at the door of Talliston. I hoped they didn't mind me being early
These are the first things I saw: a magical gateway, a full Moon peeking, a barely lit garden, a lamp in the window, a beckoning…..
I had visited Talliston once before, when John the owner and creator of the house and gardens had given me a tour of his enchanting and impressive home. His lovely husband Marcus made me beautiful fresh food with lemon and corguettes served in their voodoo kitchen.
We’d already met once before that too, whilst I was Hunting The Snark in Thetford Forest, but that's another story....
I’d been to Talliston before but I hadn’t stayed here before.
I could never have anticipated what was to come….
John said they was leaving that night, so that I could experience being in Talliston alone. I was staying in the Haunted Bedroom, but I wasn’t in the last bit scared.
Before he left he said “ A maze is where you lose yourself. But a labryinth is where you find yourself. This is a labryinth”
Then I felt lost all of a sudden. But I didn't mind, it felt right.
After they left, I ate icecream in the kitchen, and sat quietly in each room for a while, taking it all in. I opened books at random, looked at as much as possible, closed my eyes and listened.
I could smell Christmas, then the sea, then lemons and thyme, smells that reminded me of holidays, of nightmares, of being a child and having adventures. I heard voices, singing, bells, birdsong.
Every sense is catered for here.
I thought: this is what life is like, can be like, when you give yourself permission to find, experience and create magic and wonder ALL OF THE TIME, not just at Christmas. This is what life can be like when you follow your heart, and find your path, and express your vision.
I lay on my back on the floor. I found a book on a bottom shelf, tucked away. I chose a sentence in the book at random. It said:
” this is not stage magic.This is practical every day magic”
I shut the book. I’d been writing about this very thing all year for my “The Little Book of Wonder” - real magic, wonderment. Now I knew I was in the right place.
I picked another sentence at random...
"A spell is a wish expressed in a magical way"
I did a little spell in Talliston, in that beautiful space full of enchantments and magic words. It is an immense privilege to spend time in such an incredible place, full of such love and stories and histories. Being there is like being in a dream state, but within that having absolute clarity.
And as for my actual dreams, well, that was another matter..
I slept in the Haunted Bedroom, in a bed upon which a rose and an antler were layed out on a book opened at the story of Bluebeard (in which a woman is punished for her curiosity. I was not punished for mine, however, rather I felt rewarded).
The room is full of the sound of the sea. It is occupied by images of hares, and filled with childhood trinkets, and some sadness and loss too.
That night I dreamt I was a fox, and had foxes thoughts.
In the morning I cold feel the faintest twitch of my tail. My nose was damp.
I got up at dawn for the Solstice.
Later I sat in John's office and I thought about ghosts, of the things I am afraid of, that I did not know I was afraid of until then (priding myself on being fearless!), I understood some things for the first time, I unravelled some knots.
Then I wrote , for hours, non stop, gathering bit and pieces from various writings from other times, and some new stuff, given courage by John ( I had dreamt the night before that he threw a dice and landed a double six! make of that what you will!)
I urge you to visit Talliston at your first opportunity, its more than a beautiful collection of objects, more than an exquisitely fashioned interior, more than a impressive home. Talliston contains entire worlds and epic stories. Some of them will disrupt you, but it's a good disruption, like standing on your head and feeling the blood pound in your temples, and seeing things upside down and preferring them that way.
So I have begun my magical year. What will I do? Be a magician, write my book, seek out wonder.
Write my book. Write my book. Write my book
“What I tell you three times is true” The Hunting of the Snark, Edward Lear.
Thankyou to John Tarrow and Marcus and to Talliston for inspiration so complete and so moving and intense and beautiful and entertaining, it’s hard, as yet, to put it into words.
John Tarrow has a book coming out later this year called “The Strangers Guide To Talliston” which you can find out about a pre-order here- image what an incredible story will emerge from the imagination and mind of the man who created such a wonderful environment! I can’t wait to read it.