It’s been odd this last few days having breakfast without the group of friends that have been my companions for the last year. They didn’t all arrive together: one or two to begin with, then a few more showed up and – only a month or so ago – a late arrival, very exciting – who had to be introduced to the others, adjustments made, fresh ideas explored. And all the while it was high summer in a secret valley at the edge of the moor.
|Swallows in full gossip|
Quite a shock then, to find them gone, the kitchen empty, and the ash trees still in very tight black bud. While I was living in my parallel universe – watching the swallows, smelling new cut hay and honeysuckle, listening to skylarks – the winter has loosened its grip a little, tulips are opening in the garden, and the crab-apple tree is in blossom. Sun pours in through the skylight window while I eat my breakfast and there is clear blue sky beyond Brent Hill. I miss my friends: I miss wondering about them, listening to scraps of conversations, making connections. I see them in their own kitchens, in their cars, shopping, sailing. I eavesdrop on them, snoop around their houses, study their gardens, get to know their dogs. They can’t get away from me – and I can’t get away from them!
There is a degree of relief once their stories are told and they begin to disappear back into their separate world. I don’t let them go too quickly and I spend considerable time wondering if I’ve listened properly, done them justice. Sometimes my agent or my editor will ask for more information and then I need to re-visit them, to listen again for something I might have missed that could be expanded.
|The River Tamar near Cotehele|
They never quite disappear, of course. On Wednesday I drove across Dartmoor to Gunnislake to take an old friend down to Cotehele for lunch. As I stood on the banks of the Tamar, watching the tide rolling in across the mudflats, I was aware of Johnny and Sophie and Oliver just around the bend in the river and, driving back through Tavistock, I think I saw Kate hurrying into The Bedford.
|The quarry at Merrivale on Dartmoor.|
There was thick fog on the moor and I drove slowly, thinking of Polly up behind Merrivale, and of Frances setting out for Ashburton in the snow. I passed Foxhole and raised a hand to Brigid; stopped to revel at the sight of the wood anemones in Hembury woods that Louise saw on her way to Foxhole from the station.
And, even as I’m writing this, another old friend is standing at my shoulder, trying to grab my attention. She’s been around for a few books now but each time other characters and their stories have been more vociferous, clearer to me. She’s moved in very close this time, though, and I think I’m going to have to let her tell me her story; what she’s been doing since I saw her last. I shall meet her new family and her friends and discover the connections that link them together.
I was going to have a break; do all those really crucial things that have been put on hold: gardening; cleaning out cupboards; writing letters. Instead I’ll jut have to make some coffee, sit in the sunshine on the balcony all amongst the crab-apple blossom, and start listening. Gosh, it’s hell, being a writer.
This week's blog dog is known as Skye.