I sometimes say that all you need to write is a notebook and a pen. Airport departure lounge, dentist’s waiting room, park bench, Starbucks – just plonk yourself down and write. Virginia Woolf added a room of one’s own and just enough money not to need to work. In other words, plenty of time with no distractions. There’s no denying that in those conditions, your output soars, but that particular luxury has only been available to me since retiring – before it was a matter of weekends, holidays and an hour or so before work in the morning.
I still don’t truly have a room of my own, but once I’m concentrating, it doesn’t matter. The room can be full of people, but the space of my own that I’m in is plenty big enough. So moving back from Mayotte to Provence did little to interrupt my routine. I just swapped one desk for another.
The temperature, I admit, is a shock – I know it’s not really cold, but I’m tropicalised now. (That isn’t in the dictionary sense of ‘adapted for use in tropical regions, especially in regard to protection against the destructive effects of moisture or fungi’; it’s my translation of tropicalisé, meaning someone who finds anything less than 30° chilly). So it’s still far too cold, and I’m dressed in two thick pullovers and a jacket. But as long as my fingers aren’t too frozen to type, I’ll manage.
The view has changed too, but that’s of little consequence since a view, in any case, is a distraction. So I only look at it every so often – just a few seconds – to remind myself there’s a world out there.
The distractions, when they come, are different too. Here, because it’s our house, there are Things To Do. But there again, having time to do them makes all the difference, and I can still be writing in my head when I’m shredding branches. The big distraction in Mayotte was noise. It’s not as if it’s the desert here, but at least I don’t have to contend with Decibel Dan. It would have been nice to leave the tinnitus behind too, but unfortunately it’s come with me.
So really, this is to say that I’m writing, indeed quite intensely. Since the hiccup with my publisher, I’ve decided to delay the release of Perfume Island and write a novella instead, a prequel to One Green Bottle. It’s still far too rough and ready for me to feel happy with it, but it’s reaching a stage where I’m starting to see that it might conceivably pass muster. If ever it gets to that stage, I’ll reveal a bit more about it. In the meantime, I think I need another pullover.