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Letter from Trefan Morys

17 Dec 2023 5 minute read
Approach to Trefan Morys. Photo: Gosia Buzzanca

Gosia Buzzanca

I decided to visit Jan Morris’s house on my last full day at Ty Newydd. After I shared my plans with the girls in the office Miriam had at once drafted for me a provisional map with pencil on paper.

I knew it would be useless because of the way my brain refuses to do maps but I wanted it to work, so I nodded vigorously.

I have always loved seeing where the writers live and how they work. My core hyperfocus is finding out details about habits of my most beloved artists.

It felt important to acknowledge the place Jan Morris, one of my favourite writers and historians, occupied, that inspired her and gave her respite in the last 30+ years of her life.

Photo by Gosia Buzzanca

Final rest

Taking the round way to Trefan Morys means walking by the stone laden grave of David Lloyd George that overlooks the bank of Afon Dwyfor – what a place for the final rest!- and then following the path to the right.

I’m listening to the music when I begin but soon I lose signal and remove my headphones. The river is my companion.

There’s something about this terrain that makes me feel feral again, in the good, childlike way. I climb on a rock, hang briefly from a tree until my weak wrists can’t take it anymore, I balance up and down the length of the wooden bridge with arms thrown apart, say hello to every wet and muddy dog passing me by.

I’m imagining the input this place would have for the soul, the peace it would offer, the physical and liminal space to write.

Sweet, late fruit

I get a little lost after I emerge from the woods through a passage under a little brick gate. I take the wrong turn first but find a blackberry bush that offers me sweet, late fruit that satisfies and propels me back to my mission.

At the corner there is a house that happens to have a loud little pup announcing my arrival to its owner and I’m relieved. I ask for directions and he considers me briefly, his hands full of garden work.

‘She’s not there anymore, Jan.’ I tell him I know and he tells me to follow the path down, the opposite of my first attempt, walk through the farm, and that Twm’s house will be to the left and Trefan Morys to the right just after.

The sun burns my skin as I cross the farm. There is a Welsh flag steadily waving from the wall of the barn and as I leave the border of the farm’s periphery my feet sink in the gravel and everything goes quiet for a moment.

I remember reading about this gravel path in an interview with Jan Morris back in early 2020. Apparently she had taken to walking 1000 steps a day up and down this path as her exercise regime then.

At once it feels ghostly, imagining her frame marching between the houses of her son and her own. Instead, there are trees, the buzz of bugs. Quiet.

Photo by Gosia Buzzanca

Jan’s blue Honda Jazz is parked outside. I peek through the windows and observe the details of life: unopened magazines, Bob Dylan’s CD, factor 30 sun cream. It feels like an intrusion of privacy, this peeking, but also like a remembrance.

There is a pebble painted in rainbow colours laid by the steering wheel. A handwritten in Welsh note in the boot, a YES CYMRU sticker at the back.

Photo by Gosia Buzzanca

I think of what is left behind us as I follow the lead of the gravel towards Trefan Morys at last. It’s a low building, an 18th century barn, the walls stone, the roof slate. The heat hasn’t reached it yet, there is dew on the shadowed part of the grass.

I lean down and pick two purple flowers and lay them on the windowsill as an offering. I peak again and this time observe the numerous books, models of ships, a lucky cat bobbing its paw up and down as if trying to shoo me away, a hand-painted in floral designs china cups.

Part of me wishes I had brought Jan’s book with me and read some of it out loud (I’m in the middle of Europe: An Intimate Journey). Part of me recognises that she would probably be horrified by the idea of someone doing such a thing.

Photo by Gosia Buzzanca

There is no dust, just plenty of inviting, soft light, and the sense is as if someone would descend the staircase any minute and put the kettle on for a cup of tea before carrying on reading their novel.

It surprises me how much this brief visit to Trefan Morys moves me.

By the time I reach back to the homeliness of Ty Newydd I think of Rachel and Sophie, our brilliant teachers from that week, and make a promise to myself to offer flowers to artists I admire while they are still with us, to say thanks for the craft, the teachings, the healing they offer.

It is important to recognise bravery so that the brave can continue.

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