All I knew about Deia when I first came to the village almost 20 years ago was that Robert Graves had lived there. I only knew this because my uncle Michael Cullup is a poet and, for him, Graves is a hero.
Mike told a wonderful story about meeting Graves after he’d given a reading at the South Bank in London in, I think, 1960. This was when Mike would have been in his early 20s. Here’s my version of Mike’s story.
Only poets can do that
After the reading, Mike sought out Graves at the bar. His overwhelming impression, he remembers, was that the tall, broken-nosed Graves was ‘significant’. Mike introduced himself to his hero, shook his hand and they walked outside, followed by Graves’s wife Beryl and their children.
Fog swirled around Mike and Graves as they stood talking poetry on the steps, Graves looking more like a poet than anyone had a right to in his flat-topped Córdoba hat and cape.
Graves invited Mike to share a taxi to Notting Hill, where he was staying, and Mike accepted. But, the night was pitch black and the fog so thick Mike couldn’t see more than an inch in front of his face. How, he wondered, would they find a taxi in this pea-souper? Graves was unconcerned. He snapped his fingers and a black cab came gliding out of the night.
“Only poets can do that,” Graves said.
Who was the drummer in Johnny Kidd and The Pirates?
Meeting Juan Graves, Robert’s son, was a little strange for me. I’d read the two excellent Graves biographies – Martin Seymour-Smith’s Robert Graves: His Life and Work and Miranda Seymour’s Robert Graves – both of which described Juan.
Fortunately, I soon realised Juan wasn’t too keen on talking about his father and was more happy discussing British rock and roll music at enormous length, something I also love to do. So we were on safe ground.
One night last summer, we spent hours trying to remember the name of the drummer in Johnny Kidd and the Pirates before giving up. (It was Clem Cattini, by the way.)
I’d known Juan for some time before I told him my uncle’s story. He laughed and said he remembered that night on the South Bank in the fog all those years ago.
Written in the rocks
Although I only really came to Deia because I was following my heart, writing has a huge amount to do with why I keep coming back.
If I need a psychic kick up the arse, I visit La Casa de Robert Graves, his old house on the edge of Deia heading out towards Soller. And, when I came across something the painter Mati Klarwein, who lived and worked in Deia for many years, said, it explained so much.
‘I realise with great amazement that I can read letters and words running across rocks and bush formations. It looks like Hebrew and the more I try to decipher the letters the more letters appear until the whole landscape is one big bulletin board, yet when I try to group them into comprehensible words they change appearance. I couldn’t make up a coherent text.’
To me, the very fabric of the village and its landscape is writing. And, perhaps, it was written that I’d find Deia.
David Holzer is a freelance writer who has been coming to Deia for almost 20 years. Apart from loving the village, he is fascinated by the – without being too pretentious – cultural history and significance of Deia.