‘We are far too early!’ Peirene exclaims. She shivers and her teeth begin to chatter. We are standing on a cold, deserted platform in Paddington station. It’s 6.20am on Thursday morning and Peirene is wearing a little skimpy dress and a
cardigan as if we are still in the middle of summer.
She is right. We have arrived too soon for the 7am train to Totnes, but at least there is no doubt that we will arrive on time at Dartington Hall – the venue where Counterpoints Arts is organising a retreat about art and social change, with special focus on migration.
I buy us a coffee and a chocolate croissant, but Peirene is not that easily appeased when she hasn’t had enough sleep.
‘I don’t understand why we are going,’ she complains.
‘Because it’s an important subject and Counterpoints Arts has invited us,’ I reply tersely. Then I go and stand a few meters away from her. I don’t like the Nymph when she is in such a whiny mood. And truth to tell, I don’t know either what to expect from this retreat. At the moment I worry about all the work on my desk that won’t get done in the next two days.
At Dartington Hall we step onto an exhilarating roller coaster of ideas, discussions and workshops. We meet performance artists and activists and funders and directors of Irish and Danish arts organisations. We exchange experiences and insights. We talk about how art can facilitate social change, how to avoid the trap of talking to ourselves and how to reach out to different audiences.
‘Wow! That was just what I needed.’ The Nymph slips off her shoes and stretches out her feet on the seat opposite her. We are on the train back to London. ‘Publishing conferences often feel so stale and stuck. But this retreat has given me a thought for a publishing project that if we manage to pull it off could change the book world and maybe even bring about a small amount of social change.’
I, too, feel utterly content and satisfied, as if I had just devoured a beautiful meal. ‘I know what you are thinking,’ I wink at Peirene. ‘But let’s go steady. We first need to arrange a few meetings to test the viability of our idea.’
The Nymph nods: ‘I agree. Still, this could be the beginning of an exciting new chapter in our life together.’
We smile at each other in blissful harmony. And the cold start from Paddington train station less than 48 hours ago is but a faint memory.
Image by Jeremy Thompson, creative commons.