Inkstains Claire is away. Well, I’m at my parents’ house in Ireland, where they’ve lived since before I was born (long time). I once spent a whole summer writing in exercise books in the conservatory (all awful). The first night I was here I felt unsettled in some way but didn’t realise why. Then it hit me – it was so quiet! No noise at all except for the wind in the hills. I slept in this house for eighteen years and never noticed it. I must have got used to the traffic noise at our new house. When I woke up I’d no idea where I was, I slept so deeply.
In some ways it’s the perfect place to write – peace and quiet, natural beauty, hills and sea. The notion of being inspired by nature and quiet is a classic Romantic one, and the basis of many writers’ retreats, like Arvon. If you want, you can cut yourself off from TV, internet, and even phone reception. Everyone has their rituals and I’m developing mine, like having absolute quiet when writing fresh words, and drinking tea till it’s ready to come gushing out my ears. I can’t seem to do it with the TV on or if I don’t like my pen. But the truth is you can write anywhere. You can write sitting on the floor in the luggage rack of a massively crowded First Great Western train that’s been delayed by three hours, if you need to (I’ve been there). You just have to get on with it, is the sad truth, whether you’re in idyllic rural tranquility or on the tube in London (I’ve done this too).
I think this might be the first week I’ve felt like a proper writer. Now I’m self-employed I can do basically whatever I like. I can go home mid-week, I can walk in the forest and drink tea in cafes (I finally did that today. A pot of tea in this village costs a mere £1.20 – another culture shock). For the first time I’m really starting to savour that freedom. Not to mention the fact that Irish radio is a goldmine of potential research for my new local-based book. Did you know that it’s a common Irish custom to sprinkle holy water on your fields to help them grow? Or to kill a chicken and put it on your neighbour’s land so their crops will fail? Neither did I, but I’ll certainly be tuning in more often. Sure the books practically write themselves round here. Something in the air?