January 2015 (2)

I’ve retreated to the old milking parlour at the Smallest Farmhouse in Warwickshire in order to write without interruption. I know this sounds rather romantic – and there’s a certain Hardyesque appeal to throwing on a big scarf and chasing my muse across a windswept farmyard – but it’s not without its drawbacks, namely:

Cold: It’s sub-zero in here; my current displacement activities include watching my own breath condense, counting my goose bumps and timing how long it takes for my knuckles to turn blue. A small oil-filled heater nicknamed Wall-E is now my constant companion, and I tug him lovingly around my writing lair. He’s fast becoming a rival in my affection for my writers’ sidekick and beloved old dog, Pudding, who has sensibly deemed it too cold to stay out here with me after dark. If Wall-E were to wag his flex and rest his chin on my knee, he’d top of my Bonio list. Not that biscuits, canine or human, can be brought in here for fear of attracting even more…

Mice (okay rats): They’re discreet, but they’re here. They mostly party on down when I’ve cleared off, and as I write later into each night, I keep imagining them hanging about outside, glancing at their watches and grumbling like a pensioners’ supper club who find the WI talk has overrun at the village hall. Sam has laid all sorts of dastardly poison and traps and thinned the Glastonbury main stage crowd down to a small side-stage gathering, but those remaining are a hardened bunch that won’t give up. We’ve ignoring one another for now.

Unreliable electrics (possibly as a result of above): If I crank Wall-E up too high, the trip switch flips. I now keep a torch beside me at all times and save and back-up my work with OCD repetition. In its post-milking life, the parlour was converted into offices for a hot air ballooning company, and there are an amazing array of dusty switchboards on the wall labelled ’24 hour Weather’ and ‘SOA Flight Info Line’, along with row upon row of plug points, most of which sport ominous red tape marked ‘Do NOT use’. I do not use them. Wall-E, the PC and I glow gently in one corner listening out for crackling wires and ratty scratching, which isn’t easy because of the…

Noisy cattle: These aren’t actually here in the milking parlour with me – the farmer only raises beef cattle these days – but half a dozen chunky Charolais crosses are being fattened in byres just a thin brick wall away, and they crash about companionably night and day, scratching on everything in sight and mooing at one another (I think ‘lowing’ is the technical term, but from my close quarters, it’s definitely more of a ‘moo’). Having experimented with music to drown out the sound, I’ve discovered Tom McRae has a wonderfully soothing effect on them. Handily enough, he has the same effect on me, and the words are flowing…

I’m therefore delighted to report that despite its eccentricities, the milking parlour in the SFW is at maximum productivity while Tom McRae shuffles, cattle are lulled, rats lie low, electrics hold up and this author has a novel bursting to get out through her fingertips. Pudding and Wall-E are even starting to bond thanks to a dog bed pressed to his sturdy, warm side.

The book I’m working on now follows a couple through the first ten years of their relationship, and continues in the same writing direction as The Woman Who Fell in Love for a Week, which digs deeper emotionally than my previous books, but still has a furnace of warmth and humour at its heart. The Woman Who Falls in Love for a Week will be published in paperback in the UK and Ireland in early summer, but for anyone who would like to read it now then it’s already falling as softly as snow into laps and e-readers, and you can follow this link to find it. If you also find time to review it online, I’d be enormously grateful because it can make such a difference for other readers (and for one anxious writer in a chilly milking parlour in Warwickshire who will dance around her heater with glee if you enjoy it and are kind enough to pass the word on).

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