Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Devon Air

Back in July I spent a week at my parents' house in Devon, working on my new book. My visit was timed with glorious, unending sunshine, so al fresco was the order of every day. Here's a picture of my writing spot, under the big, old Bramley apple tree in their garden. It's a tree I have history with - my first swing hung from its boughs, I used to whistle up its branches and take a perch at head-spinning heights, and every autumn I'd stand beneath its canopy, hands cupped, popping on my toes, ready to catch the runaways as my dad worked the apple-picker. It even has a name - Matthew - after Anne of Green Gables (yes, there's a Marilla too, she's further down the garden and is an American Mother - aptly - a type of eating apple tree). Anyway - as a place to write - Matthew's shade was bliss. 

Occasionally I welcomed a little visitor to my workspace - Calvin is six months old now, and loved the visit to his grandparents' place just as much as I did. Here he is, proving a convivial writing companion.

When I wasn't writing, I was walking. The best way to get CJ to nap is by taking him out in his pram, so every afternoon we walked down the dusty lanes to the River Teign. It felt really special showing him the village I grew up in, and treading in the footsteps that my mum used to take with me in a pram, thirty-five (ahhh!) years ago. The hedgerows were full of cow parsley and buttercups, we stopped to marvel at a pair of zig-zagging dragonflies, said hello to troops of honey-coloured cows, and watched an airborne tussle between a shrieking buzzard and a crow. As we walked in the full heat of the afternoon, canopies of ash and oak lent their shade. We stood on the hump-backed bridge, looking down on the river, eyeing a tattered rope-swing ('give it a few years', I told CJ) and feeling cooler just for watching the water. Passing cars were few and far between. In such a peaceful place, with my sleeping baby trundling along with me, my mind played over each morning's writing, and I figured out solutions to some knotty problems - the like of which had been evading me in Bristol. 

My new novel is a love story, but it's also about growing up and going home, and our attachment to place. Being back in the garden of my childhood, and wandering the reaches of a village that will always be a part of me, proved to be the perfect place to work on it. I'm back in the city now, writing my way towards a second draft, and I'm channelling every moment of those days in the country, my apple tree desk, the green lanes, and the sweet afternoons of walking with my babies - Calvin, and my book.