Thursday, 16 August 2007

Busman's holiday?

Some of you may well have harboured the suspicion that I've been away on holiday - well, you're right. I've been back a few days now, but it's been a manic week with so much to catch up on, so I haven't got around to blogging till now. My apologies for neglecting you, if you're regular readers.

We went to Cornwall. Last year, we went to France, down by the Spanish border. It was boiling there - but then, it was boiling here too, and like so many others we took last year's hot summer as a sign that global warming was going to give southern England a Mediterranean temperature from now on. Ho ho.

However, although it was raining when we arrived in the far West, near St Ives, we ended up blest with good weather on the whole. Having fled from flood-threatened Oxford, we felt extremely lucky. Three times now we've gone down there and each time the locals have commented on how lucky we've been with the weather, so we're in danger of thinking that it's always fine.

I am so in love with that place. My husband and I idly talked of moving there - and there's a lot to be said for it. Don't want to sound too much like an incipient Druid or Goddess worshipper, but it is a place that speaks to me. Like Oxford, it's imbued with history. Like where I came from in the north of Scotland, it's got sea and cliffs and wildness. Unlike Oxford, it's got fresh air! My lungs felt like they'd had a good scouring out - all of us were yawning all the time. It was a detox for soul and body.

However, I don't think in all reality I would move there. In Scotland I was only too familiar with the sense of being cut off from the world at large, and don't think that after the first fine careless rapture I would much enjoy it again (then again, there's the internet ...). In Oxford there's all the facilities of a city, there's access to London and Heathrow, there's hospitals close at hand ... there's also noise, street-crime, traffic ... Oh dear. I need to get rich enough to have a foot in both camps - that's the answer. Then one of the Cornish nationalists will no doubt set fire to our Cornish retreat ...

It was a great, great holiday, but it was also a working holiday for me - I was researching for my children's series. Back in the days when I was writing The Chase, which was set in France, I was exactly the same - never off duty. It's exhausting - you carry a notebook at all times, you spend too much on books (my husband would argue that's a year-round fault), take hundreds of photos, try to imprint everything on your memory, 'in case it might be useful' - that's my mantra. There comes a point when you wish you could be normal, just lie on the beach or look at the view or go on the jaunt, without trying to catch things in the net of your imagination. Where a fact could be just that - an interesting fact, and not a lump of ore from which a nugget of story can be extracted. The thing is, I can't help it. I can't switch off from 'That would make a good story' and 'What if?' - it's the way my brain works. Damn tiring.

Here's a quote from James Thurber on this: 'I never quite know when I'm not writing. Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says "Dammit, Thurber, stop writing." She usually catches me in the middle of a paragraph.'

Does that strike a chord with any of you?


julian said...

St Ives does strike a note.Fond memories and yes flirted with the either of moving too..its a holiday thing though..real life get you back sometime!

I have aq note book with me now..supposed to be helping me with the drafting ..ideas etc...i have too may ideas though! not enough graft is my problem...

Muvva said...

Love the blog, Lorna. Have just put your book on my amazon wishlist. Looks fascinating!