The hut


Dear Artist,

At the foot of an apple orchard in the village of Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire stood a hut that for 36 years was off-limits to all but one person.


Laugharne, Wales hut
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Nestled at the end of a lime-treed path, the hut paid homage to another, distant hut — a converted garage perched on a cliff edge overlooking the Taf Estuary in Laugharne, Wales. This is where Dylan Thomas spent the last four years of his life, writing, among others, Under Milk Wood, Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, Over Sir John’s Hill and Poem on His Birthday. He kept a desk and chair, pictures of his heroes Byron, Whitman, Auden and MacNeice, a pot of pencils and a bowl of boiled sweets. In a letter to his publishers, Thomas described his sanctuary as his “word-splashed hut.”


Great Missenden hut
Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

A few years after Thomas’s death in 1953 at age 39, Welsh-born novelist Roald Dahl, just two years younger than Thomas, travelled to see the hut in Laugharne. Struck with its perfection, Dahl returned to his new property in Great Missenden to build at the bottom of his orchard nearly the exact same hut. There, Dahl banned interlopers and polished a daily routine of walking with a thermos along the path from his house, crossing the threshold and settling into his mother’s hand-me-down wing-backed chair. He tucked his legs into a sleeping bag and propped his feet on a de-commissioned suitcase. With a cardboard tube balanced on his knees and a wooden board balanced on the tube, Dahl began by first sharpening six HB pencils. He wrote in longhand on a yellow legal pad — a filing cabinet and books close on one side, a wastepaper basket for rejected pages on the other. “Finally you get settled, you get into a sort of nest and get really comfortable, and then you’re away,” Dahl said of his “womb,” where he would write more than 34 books over 36 years until his death in 1990 at age 74. “A little hut, curtains drawn so I don’t see the squirrels up in the apple trees in the orchard. The light on, right away from the house, no vacuum cleaners, nothing.”


“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” (Roald Dahl, from “The Minpins”)



PS: “Well, maybe it started that way. As a dream, but doesn’t everything? Those buildings. These lights. This whole city. Somebody had to dream about it first. And maybe that is what I did. I dreamed about coming here, but then I did it.” (Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach, written in the hut at Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England)

“To begin, at the beginning…” (Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood, partly written in the hut at Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, Wales)

Esoterica: Your own, word-splashed hut needn’t be perched on a cliff or tucked at the bottom of the garden. If there are gifts this season, consider offering a private promise to erect a sanctuary in a corner of your own, personal orchard. “Four and a half hours of my day — a quarter of my waking hours I am completely immersed in a dotty world of fantasy,” said Dahl of the lifetime of creativity he relished in his hut. “A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.”

Wishing you a peaceful holiday and a very happy and creative New Year from all of us at The Painter’s Keys.
Thank-you for your friendship.


The audio letters are now ready to give as a gift!
The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are now available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys. 

“Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog.” (Roald Dahl, from “Matilda”)



  1. My Hut is in the corner of a well organized studio. The Hut is a cozy disorganized respite for journaling, reading, thought creating, and action without restriction. My Hut is hours away from routine of any sort. It is my creative corner.

  2. Another great, enjoyable letter. Thank you so much to all of you at the Painter’s Keys for giving me inspiration and connection to other artists. I am always amazed at the new topics you come up with Sara and love rereading the posts from your Dad. Wishing you and all your families the very merriest Christmas and creativity in the New Year.

  3. Sara, thank you for your generosity in sharing these twice -weekly gems with us. They are a treasured bright spot in a spotty world. You and your elves are beloved. Peace and much love to all reading this. Xo

  4. Thank you, Sara, for sharing yet another lovely story. Sending best wishes to you and your family and all good things in the new year. Seems this story has twigged yet another self-imposed project … a sanctuary! What a great idea!

    • How very lovely! I raised my two daughters on Roald Dahl and they were in turns delighted and disgusted, which was his aim I feel certain, but all in all they still adore him!! In their thirties and still referring to some of his stories. Thank you for the images and imaginings of Thomas and the redoubtable Dahl.
      Bryony Wynne-Jones, (visual artist and avid reader)

  5. ” Life is a pure flame and we live by an invisible sun within us” …. finding that hut that allows us to shine is most important. Wishing you and your whole family joy and creativity and love this season- that includes those that are close to you Sara as well as your adopted and extended family through these letters …..

    PS In January I travel to a little “hut” with an artist studio to rediscover and explore next steps in my art journey- my own personal artist residency – a little “ranch” called Summers Day Ranch outside San Miquel en Allende….. All the best …

  6. This piece is lovely……brilliant…as the British would say. It deserves multiple readings! The best to you and yours this holiday season!

  7. Thank you Sara. This is exactly what I needed to read today. I think of your dad very fondly. He was always an inspiration to me. I am full-on with my underwater photography and writings right now, but I hope to get back to painting soon. I very recently bought my own “sanctuary”’ by the ocean on Vancouver Island. This article came at the perfect time. Happy holidays to you and your family. ~ Christina

  8. I rarely comment, but I do so enjoy these letters. Today’s letter reminded me that I love my “hut” of creativity, even if it is only a small corner that i have carved out for my own. It’s where I can dream, and sketch, and draw in my own little world. Best of holiday wishes to you and yours, and wishing you all the best in the coming year.

  9. A very worthwhile read. Now I need to check out Dahl. Given the current Christmas season and the mention of Dylan Thomas, I’m reminded of his “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” for which one doesn’t need to be Christian in order to experience a parade of emotions ranging from out and out laughter, to irony, to nostalgia to sadness–especially when mindful of Thomas’ early death from acute alcoholism. That piece was likely written in that hut.

  10. Great story and relevant too.

    I once lived 30 mins from Gt Missenden and the area is wooded and beautiful, which is a definite bonus.

    Your work environment must be you, it’s key to feeling right, the way you work, a place to think and be.


  11. Sara:

    As always it’s a pleasure and inspiration to read your letters. This one a fine way to lead us to Christmas, to help lead us to the place of creativity. All the best,

  12. I can relate to this article. I too like painting alone. One can consentrate better with no interruptions. I love the area in Wales and have visited an area close by several times.
    Merry Christmas, Jean.

  13. Thank you Sara for sharing your wisdom (Robert’s legacy too). Happy New Year to everyone at the Painters’ Keys.

  14. I haven’t responded to any letters since Robert’s passing. I guess there was a special relationship we had. Sara, I think you have hit a note with me on this one. All creative people need a sanctuary. I am very blessed to have a wonderful one attached to my house, which makes it very easy to visit even for short periods.
    I teach several workshops every year and sometimes meet folks who are quite good, but can’t break through to the next level. Frequently they are part of a weekly class and get good feedback from their comrades. My advice is to do a workshop periodically, stay close with your artist friends, but don’t let them confirm your average work. If you want to grow in a significant way, a little solitude is required. Maybe even a great deal of solitude.

  15. Understanding the appropriate question to ask is generally way more imperative in comparison with having a ready response. Sound questions dispute your thinking. Scientific studies are very unambiguous that we care about those who listen to us. Our task and aims are definitely essentially who we are and who we would like to be. In a sense, proper questions are our tool for supporting to see the accurate inescapable fact around us instead of shadowy delineations of it. Ask foundational questions regarding the things which all others takes for certain. People are merciful. They need to have a fantastic conversation together with you. We achieve things for numerous different objectives. As you ask someone on what satisfies them, it opens the entrance to discovering something that is definitely exclusively to that person. It may be a magical instance for others while you entice them to talk about their hopes and dreams with you. There are instances when you don’t need to produce guidance.

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Featured Workshop

March 11, 2018 to March 17, 2018

Julia-Morgan_Jump,Float,Fly Come to Taos to paint, draw and write with a group of artists interested in deepening their vision and skills. Stay at the iconic Mabel Dodge Luhan House, a place where artists and writers have been gathering for nearly a century.


Artist and Instructor Julia Morgan will teach how to transform sketchbook pages with watercolor and drawing techniques that tell stories of vast and ever-changing skies, adobe dwellings nestled in cottonwood groves, red mesas along the horizon, the colored striations of cliffs, and the winding canyon carved by the Rio Grande.


All levels of art experience are welcome. series #1
Oil on canvas with pyrite and amethyst
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Candace studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Angers, France but it is her travels in the deserts of Africa and Oman, Antarctica and the Arctic, and sacred sights of Machu Picchu and Petra that serve as her true place of learning. A desire to combine these experiences with a deeper understanding of her own spirituality has provided the underlying focus and inspiration for her paintings.


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