January 2016

It’s the end of my first month at Newstead, and I’m not quite sure where to start in telling you about this absolutely wonderful place. It’s amazing how quickly I’ve started to find my way around. I’m not exaggerating when I say that on the 5th January, the walk down the one mile drive seemed endless. In the middle of last week, I realised the walk goes really quickly now, and I have a route map in my head which goes gates – rhododendrons – bracken – lawn – Abbey. My priority was really getting to know the house and grounds, so that I could focus what I wanted to write poems about. That first day, I was helping take the decorations down around the house, something like fourteen Christmas trees. People’s voices crackled on and off walkie talkies saying things like ‘I’m in the Livingstone room’ and ‘the coot’s in a box by the shop entrance’.  People mentioned the undercroft, the west wing, Byron’s study, the Salon, the North staircase banister next to the cloisters, and I could go on; it wasn’t like any house tour you get on ‘Homes under the Hammer’. I was like a child in a sweet shop – in fact, I was like a poet in a Newstead Abbey, as all around me, poems leapt out.  I found myself walking round and round the cloisters, watching the peacocks in the garth garden, observing the first pecking order I’d ever seen, as the peacocks, then the golden pheasant ate what they wanted and left the rest for the finches and sparrows. And how was I...