The second book is on the way – working title The Girl in the Green Mac – and I have a deadline to meet. So to find somewhere cool, calm and beautiful to write is an absolute joy. And last weekend, that place was Rowhedge, in Essex. It’s just outside Colchester – where I did my A-levels – so I do know the area a little, but Rowhedge was somewhere quite new.
I was staying with Eve, an old friend of my mum’s from way back in the 60s, CND, drama and trad jazz. She had a drama group that I joined, all black leotards and method, swaying across the stage. As I mixed Horlicks in the Milk Bar I dreamed of being an actress, nothing showy, not Hollywood, just doing rep in a small town in middle England – Derby? Leicester? – with a good crowd of chums and a new play every week. I hadn’t seen her for years, but dropped in for coffee when I was doing a talk in Brightlingsea in February this year. A pretty village, a river (the Colne) and a Co-op – what more could you want? ‘Can I come and write here?’ I asked.
And so last week I packed a bag, jumped on a train and arrived at 2.30 on a glorious, sunny afternoon. Eve showed me to my room – and what a joy! It was a real Room of Ones Own, as if Virginia Woolf had stood beside her as she arranged the furniture. A writing desk, a chaise longue (a chaise longue! how long I have yearned for a chaise longue…), a window onto a small terrace, and a view of the long, meandering garden down to the woods. A narrow bed and a teeny bathroom completed the magical scene.
And did I write? Readers, I did. Possibly not as much as I should have. There was so much to do – having breakfast in the garden, exploring the highways and byways of Rowhedge, finding the Co-op, dining at the Anchor, meeting Eve’s lovely friends, asking them about their memories of the Sixties (research!), and being a good guest. Maybe next time…