Every writer needs a special writing place, where their imagination can soar. This is mine.
Meet Zeph. He’s a 1977 caravan. We bought him about 16 years ago, when our kids were little. Here they are, still small, when Zeph was looking pretty cool.
I started writing in Zeph about 10 years ago. The first story I wrote was A Necklace of Souls
The track led steadily downhill towards the cliff. Just when I feared that we would fall over the edge it turned, descending through daisies and yellow bracken towards the sand. Breakers pounded, spray drifting in a white mist. The ocean’s roar blended with the wind, so it seemed the world was all noise.
Then came Inner Fire, set in Devon. We didn’t take Zeph to Devon, it was too far, but I wrote these words inside him, much later:
‘Look.’ Rowan said. ‘See? A stone circle.’
And now I could see it — flat rocks placed upright in the shape of a ring. It was fairly atmospheric, with the mist and the gray sheep and the silence. There were … I counted the stones out loud … twenty stones.
‘Count it again.’ Rowan sounded amused.
So I did, going back the other way. Which direction was widdershins? And was widdershins good luck or bad? While I was trying to work this out I forgot which number I was up to. ‘Twenty-two,’ I said. ‘I think.’
He counted too. ‘Twenty-one.’
‘You must have left one out.’
‘And how could I do that, with the stones here in front of me?’
‘Maybe you just can’t count very well. You know what they say about men from the country.’
He grabbed me, pinning my arms to my sides. ‘What do they say?’ His face was close to mine.
‘Just … that they can’t count properly.’
He smiled, and kissed me full on the mouth.
Oh. My. God.
(Can you guess what genre Inner Fire is? 🙂 )
Another visit, another story. This time, based in Berlin.
These are Stolperstein – literally ‘stumbling stones’: small bronze plaques placed in the cobbles outside the houses of those taken by Nazis. They’re speckled throughout Germany, especially Berlin, and we stayed in the Jewish Quarter, so you walked over people’s names and the dates of their forced removal and death every day.
I wrote this story, staring out at the rain-streaked windows of the old caravan:
In Berlin, the sidewalk marks the dead. Small bronze plaques, set into the cobbles, remembered those who’d once lived here. … Fatima took up her violin and laid her empty case, open for stray coins, near the Kessler family. They had been murdered in various camps over 1943, so at first, Fatima had felt guilty for choosing this spot. But it was a good place because the pavement was warmed by the train station underneath, and anyway, the Kesslers didn’t mind. If anything, they seemed to enjoy her music.
Over the last few years, Zeph’s been deteriorating. We’ve been using him less and less for camping, and I’ve been writing at home, where it’s been warmer and dry-er.
Last year, we decided it was time to improve Zeph, to take him out of his old paddock and make him pretty. Plus, the kids have just left home, so we needed a project.
We’ve been doing Zeph up over the last year.
It’s been difficult to find the time to write, but I have managed to squeeze one story out – it’s coming out in the ODT this summer.
Petra always finished her run at the Esplanade. Here she’d treat herself to a take-out espresso from the café beside the shark bell, sipping the hot coffee slowly while she watched the surfers dancing with death on the tops of the waves.
She watched for sharks, too, but never saw any. They were out there though, because next to the bell was a memorial to the surfers taken by Great Whites, over forty years ago.
Petra liked to think of the enormous killers, swimming silent through the deep. They were apex predators. No-one messed with sharks.
And – finally …
Here is Zeph, all bright and shiny new. We have just finished! He came home on Thursday night.
Now he’s ready for new stories.
Here’s to Zeph, and more stories to come!
P.S. This blog post was first given as a talk at Wild Imaginings Hui, 2019