I had left St Martin's School of Art back in the summer and, thanks to a couple of friends, I was offered the use of Railway Cottages - deep in the forest in Norfolk . . . rent free!
The deal was that I was to live there and keep the place warm, and I was to vacate it occasionally - when some Railway Cottages partners wanted to stay. On these occasions I would head off north on my moped to Cley next the Sea. My residence at Railway Cottages may have also been dependent on a few other little details like keeping the place clean and tidy.
Looking back . . nearly fifty years, I think I may have failed to uphold my side of the bargain on every front. I kept the place cold and I can't imagine that I kept it clean and tidy. Possibly this is why, after a few months, I was invited by a consensus of owners . . . to leave!
In the early 1970's Railway Cottages had no electricity and no running water and, being a Fine Art graduate fresh out of art school with nothing to live on but my romantic illusions about being an artist, I had barely enough funds to keep a pither alight. When really cold I would be huddled in front of that stove . . . making a watercolour painting of it.
Given that I was alone in the middle of an enormous forest, and civilisation (Santon Downham!) was a couple of miles away, I am surprised that I don't have memories of either fear or loneliness. I really enjoyed living at the Cottages for those few months. The light of the moon became important to me and the smell of the conifers is still vivid. I loved being so close to woodpeckers, pheasants, stoats etc and it was marvellous to be sharing the cottages with beautiful long-tailed field mice.
2018 'Drawings by Alan Stones' solo exhibition at Vallum Gallery, University of Cumbria, Carlisle