I had the best of intentions when heading out to Warwick, of descending upon old people’s homes and cold-calling people with the same surnames as the pioneers of the area I’ve been researching, but when I got to The White Swan and it’s hand-hewn sandstone walls, its magic took hold of me and all I wanted to do was sit on the verandah near the roses, breathing in their perfume and writing.
Just what I needed. When tackling a project as enormous as Dear Madman, I’m having to learn new ways of doing things. Not only the researching aspect, but the necessity of breaks – to contemplate, to let my mind find connections between all the disparate facts I’ve collected. To let the voices of my characters find me.
I took some drives and long walks in the countryside and absorbed the sounds and sights and smells. I tore off a willow branch and stripped it, felt the sting of it on my palm, to know what it had felt like for my dear madman, punished as a boy. I sat on bales of hay and imagined what it would have been like to sleep in a shed full of it. Inhaled the saltiness of cows.
Then I came back to The White Swan and watered the roses, and began to imagine a life spent primarily outdoors. Where the fields were more home than the barn you slept in. Where beasts of burden were comrades, not picturesque additions to a pastoral scene. I put my hand on the sandstone and felt the years between us fall away. Had these very pick marks been made by my madman?
This is a very different world I’m entering. How does a pampered twenty-first century woman, imagine life as a barely literate laborer over one hundred years ago.
I’m attempting to write my way into the past and make it, somehow, ring true and feel real.
6 thoughts on “FIELD TRIP TWO – WARWICK”
You’re torturing and tantalising us here! This really is an incredible story you’re writing, and it sounds like you’re immersing yourself in it. I am dying to read your book and can’t wait till it’s finished and published and launched!
I see you’re reading at the ‘Whispers’ event on Saturday, and bugger bugger but I am going to see ‘Idea of North’ (the acappella group) at 3pm that day. And I almost never do anything exciting but that day of all days I am! I would have loved to say hello. Hope it all goes swimmingly!
Thanks Fiona. This project is huge, and yes, I’m totally immersed – or obsessed, depending on how you look at it. I’ll be disappointed not to see you at Whispers. I’m reading something from my Cambodian novel to be, Child of Fortune. It would’ve been lovely to catch up. We’ll have to get together another time. I’d love to hear about what you’re working on too. Love Ed xx ps – enjoy the singing!
The thing that my mind baulks at when I try to imagine the past is the silence: no traffic noise or aeroplanes near or far, no hum of electric wires, etc
I LOVE that silence. but what I noticed after a few days in that quiet was that there WAS noise! Animals, wind, thunder. My own breath.
Yes. Animals chewing the cud in the paddock near the house, the house itself cracking as it cools …
Oh yeah, lots of spooky old house noises, the scratching of the resident rat late at night. The creaking and settling of the stones. God I love those stones. I love touching them!