I’m reading a collection of short one act plays by a group of writers I’m mentoring as part of an initiative for Ty Newydd, the Writers’ Centre for Wales. The house, dating from the sixteenth century, is near the Snowdonia National park, set between the hills of Eifionydd and the sea, on a green baise lawn with what estate agents call commanding views over Cardigan Bay. It is astonishing and lovely, a perfect place for inspiration, the last home of Lloyd George.
The former prime minister and one of the architects of the Welfare State died in what is now the centre’s upstairs library. It is easy to imagine him perched high in a bed, bolstered by pillows, looking out onto the devastating view.
I’ve been teaching residential courses at Ty Newydd for around fifteen years and the Centre’s director, Sally Baker, is both resilient and visionary, eager to create new experiences for writers. She has indulged my experiments – playwrights working with visiting directors (Jenny Sealey, John McGrath, Phillip Zarrilli, Mike Pearson) – site-specific work, with a dozen writers taking over the house and grounds, making performances in every unlikely location, and the likely ones, too. She has even indulged our late night carousing and my ghost stories, particularly my insistence that Lloyd George’s spirit can be sensed in the upstairs bathroom, what had been his personal privvy. I mean no disrespect, I’m merely repeating what I’ve been told, with a few tiny embellishments, which is to be expected at Ty Newydd, where stories take flight.
The great man is not buried in the Llanystumdwy churchyard, but down the lane from the house in the wooded valley of the Afon Dwyfor, under a huge stone. It feels Celtic and pagan and immensely appropriate. There is a hush around his memorial, as though the birds themselves have taken a moment to reflect. Whenever I walk down, there is always a writer, pen poised, breathing in the dappled air.